Actors portray Mexican casta paintings

Blanton Museum and Salvage Vanguard Theater Portray Casta Paintings Onstage

  • Oct 25, 2022

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin and Salvage Vanguard Theater present the world premiere of Casta by Adrienne Dawes, produced in collaboration with the Blanton’s concurrent exhibition Painted Cloth: Fashion and Ritual in Colonial Latin America

Featuring puppetry, dance and original music, the immersive performance is inspired by a series of 16 casta paintings—a genre dedicated to depicting the mixing of races in colonial Latin America—by Miguel Cabrera, one of the most prolific artists of the period.  

Set in Mexico City in 1785, the play depicts an ambitious apprentice of unknown lineage who is commissioned to paint a casta series for a wealthy Spanish patron, Don Francisco. The apprentice tries to appease the patron by copying the original and conforming to fixed expectations of dress and activity for each caste.  

“I’ll paint you as you’re seen,” he tells the portraits. But the portraits come alive and revolt against their categorizations: “We will be seen.”  

Said playwright Adrienne Dawes, “Just as we struggle today to contain ourselves within tidy ‘identity categories’ (often defined for us by government entities), this hybrid performance draws from both the history of casta paintings and accounts of colonial subjects who rejected narrow, static categorizations of race and identity. Casta … explores just how fluid identity always has been and will be.”  

Learn more about performances on the Blanton Museum website.