Flor’s Carnival

Flor María Bouhot (1949) is Colombia’s wildest, most daring, and most erotic painter. Her tropical fauvism skirts the edges of the abyss. Her strategy: a volcanic explosion of color. If she paints a red pepper or a pumpkin, they will inevitably turn into fresh, desirable flesh; if her brush plays with a vase or a tablecloth, its irresistible textures will bewitch with the tactile sensuality of the everyday.

By Sol Astrid Giraldo E.


A chronicler of desire and ecstasy in all of their manifestations, she inevitably and very naturally arrived in the Kingdom of Shrovetide, carnival, the Carnival in Barranquilla to be exact. She has watched it closely since 1990. She has lived, danced, drunk, and sweated it… She has been drunk on its sun and fierce freedom. She has pierced the throbbing nights in which it is prepared, the lustful seeds that breed it. She has lost herself in the cosmic disorder that, year after year, unleashes unruly children on the streets: the alligator man, the bull masks, the congo and devil-mirror dancers, the cross-dressing farotas… Subversive beings from the fringes.

She has planted herself firmly in the center of the carnivalesque chaos with a cool camera. Her photos freeze the unrepeatable and untraceable instant. She hunts for it in the heat of the cumbia or mapalé, the color storm of the parades, the iridescent hurricane of feathers, the Dionysian flight of skirts, and the crazy flower battles. A ray of stillness cast upon the feverish rhythms and sensations.

Her trove of snared images then takes a rest. Over the years, in successive studios in Medellín, Bogotá, or Guadalajara, she has revisited them in the greatest silence. In this exploration, the photographic impression is a guide, never a straitjacket. It allows memory to blossom again, sensory impressions to emerge from the unconscious in a moment of alchemy, entirely unrelated to the documentary record.

Face-to-face with her snapshots, Flor is free. She discards, synthesizes, restructures. She composes strident and harmonic symphonies with her savage palette that despise the tyranny of reality, pursuing with a flexible and dynamic line the pagan expression of bodies, the subversion of uncontrolled gestures, the triumph of instinct, the reign of skin. Her paintings are a kind of anti-Guernica honoring the constant victory of life, despite its deadly feet of clay.

Her works chase mestizo and baroque images, those that, in a single stroke, connect with the mythical carnival time. Where nothing is as it should be, where African drums and American chirimías suck the European whiteness out of the Colony, where men demolish the steel walls of their masculinity with the liberating flight of feathers, where women recover their essence by shamelessly opening their legs, where humans unfurl with horns or reptilian heads. Images in which skin is the deepest; where artifice is the most real; the mask, the most naked; makeup, the most transparent; mixtures, the purest. It is the American carnival at the height of its expression. And she is the savage flower, witty, devilish, cross-dressing, and its most daring witness.