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Digital Still Lifes Chronicle a Modern Day Drug Lord

"Cyber Chola" Jawn Billetes shares a four-part image series for FELT Zine.

Nathaniel Ainley

Nathaniel Ainley

Images courtesy the artist.

Over the past few decades, video game developers and 3D artists alike have gotten incredibly good at creating fully immersive environments that can maintain a remarkable amount of detail. The digital still lifes of self-proclaimed "cyber chola" Jawn Billetes are a testament to that fact: this series of digital images was created for her issue of FELT Zine, an online zine-publishing platform. Billetes tells The Creators Project that the work is centered around ideas born out of the zeitgeist of universal narco culture as it exists in the streets and labs, while reflecting the “varying degrees of legality as they directly correspond to the shades of the perpetrators skin.”

In the Americas, much of the folklore surrounding drug kingpins is expressed through music. Billetes grew up listening to Spanish singers like Chalino and Tigres, but gradually turned to rappers like Pusha T, Jeezy, and Max B as she got older. “I think it's because both genres reminisce on the desire to pull yourself up from a life of depravity to a life of indulgence. I think about how I've internalized these stories and have at times conflated luxury and wealth with self actualization or something just as meaningful,” she explains. Still, she recognizes the dangers of this misinterpretation and the limitations of her medium: “The similarities between both of these manifestations of narco culture go deeper than can be discussed in short format.”

As an homage to her uniquely Chicano upbringing, Billetes put the zine together as her personal narco album. The four-part series chronicles a drug dealer's transition from the streets to the lab, while remaining conscious of the danger and insecurity that comes with that sort of lifestyle.

Billetes doesn't stick to one particular software, but instead likes to experiment with multiple depending on what she is trying to do. Most of the time, however, she says she constructs her scenes using Autodesk’s 3ds Max, using scans or objects that she's modeled or textured herself.

Be sure to check out more work by the artist on her Instagram.

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