At first glance, Naia del Castillo's photographs seem to be a sneak preview of the latest Versace or Dolce & Gabbana campaign. Her images of attractive subjects are dramatic and sensual -- not unlike what you'd find in glossy, high-fashion advertisements.
But Castillo isn't selling couture. She creates props out of blouses, bed linens and night lights, and fashions them into straitjackets, masks made of pillowcases and even glowing nightgowns. Her new exhibition, "Traps and Seduction," at De Santos Gallery marks the first U.S. showing for the 30-year-old artist from the Basque region of Spain. The handsome men and women whom she photographs in her striking, stylish and sometimes creepy garments seem almost serene. The resulting images are reminiscent of a Nine Inch Nails video -- shot at Pottery Barn or Saks Fifth Avenue.
Castillo's exhibition at De Santos is split into two parts -- the images of "Traps" might freak you out, while those of "Seduction" are more of a turn-on. "In 'Traps,' I deal with beauty and pain," says Castillo. "Everything has beauty. But underneath, there's a second layer." That's evident in her Espacio Domestico--Cojin (Domestic Space--Pillow), in which a woman, resting on an intricate gold pillow, is trapped, her face completely wrapped with a matching pillowcase. Then there's Sin Título--Horas de Oficina, (Untitled--Office Hours), where a stylish young couple poses with the woman's head bound to the man's back, their outfits conjoined in a sort of Siamese business suit. Trent Reznor would be proud.
In an image from the tantalizing "Seduction," two women's legs in white tights sensually touch at the knees on a white fur rug. Their boots are made of a tapestry-type material that depicts a masculine 18th-century scene of a man wooing a courtesan. But even so, the image's pink background exudes a feminine sexual energy. "It is about our roles," says Castillo wryly. "Who is the seducer? And who is seduced?"
With all this enigmatic, sexy imagery, that would be us.