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By E.A. Jonker February 15, 2022

Wanaawna Meets Salty Waters

Created by Carolina Caycedo in 2019, Wanaawna is a piece belonging to the artist’s series Water Portraits. The work focuses on the life and motif of river water, more specifically that of the Santa Ana River. Caycedo photographs and manipulates to create a beautiful psychedelic symmetry, a kaleidoscope of pattern and colour. The image is printed onto flowing fabrics, mounted and then draped. Wanaawna is filled with lively playful greens and purples, colours not typically associated with water, allowing the piece to take life. The choice of colour also gives the piece a sense of toxicity, a sense that something has been tainted. The work is not only visually compelling but also grounded. There is a strong visual weight which is a stark contrast to the light, billowing surface that it exists on. The piece is a true exploration of contrasting elements. Despite the orderly and almost manicured treatment of the imagery, it retains an honest wild quality. Though Wanaawna features blurred edges and finessed shapes, nothing about the image feels unnatural. It has the capacity to be both spontaneous and a perfect mirror reflection.

Caycedo captures the beauty of the Santa Ana River, not as a resource or a landscape but as a living being. She invites viewers to confront the water ‘toe-to-toe’. She channels the voice of the river, the shapes of its freedom, as she simultaneously tackles neo-capitalism and the erasure of indigenous perspectives. Distancing the elements from an association with industrial production or human self-serving is the primary directive of the works. The entirety of Caycedo’s exploration in Water Portraits is an effort to reconnect the human with the land in a deeply political manner. Each Water Portrait confronts viewers with histories and memories of neglect and misunderstanding. The neglect of our own people and the stripping and claiming of land. Caycedo challenges the modern view of nature and exploitation with a tender understanding of water’s true life. She is attempting to return both the viewer and the subject matter to a raw, open self. So as to be genuine in our expression and reception of pain.


Miranda, Carolina. “Carolina Caycedo’s Water Portraits out of Difficult Environmental Stories.” Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles, CA], 8 Jan. 2020, www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2020-01-07/carolina-caycedo-water-portraits-video-difficult-environment-history-stories.

MOMENTA Biennale de L’image. “Carolina Caycedo.” Https://Momentabiennale.Com/, 2021, momentabiennale.com/en/artist/carolina-caycedo


Photograph by author: Wanaawna Meets Salty Waters, 2019, by Carolina Caycedo,Galerie de l'UQAM

About the author

E.A. Jonker is a Visual Arts student studying at Dawson College.

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