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Verónica Castillo

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Verónica Castillo, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar
Verónica Castillo, 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Verónica Castillo, 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
A sculpture by Verónica Castillo, 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
A sculpture by Verónica Castillo, 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
The front of a sculpture by Verónica Castillo, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar
The back of a sculpture by Verónica Castillo, Washington, D.C., 2013, photograph by Alan Govenar

Verónica Castillo was born into a family of artists in Izúcar de Matamoros in the Mexican state of Puebla, an area renowned for Arbol de la Vida (Tree of Life) sculptures. Her father, Don Alfonso Castillo Orta, was honored with Mexico's prestigious El Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes (The National Prize of Sciences & Arts). Verónica began working in the family’s folk art collective as a child, creating tiny figures that were incorporated into larger works. By her early teens, she was creating her own sculptures. The Trees of Life incorporate pre-Columbian traditions that were strongly influenced by the coming of Catholicism with the Spanish conquest. Working with her family, Castillo included symbols and designs from indigenous peoples to create beautiful, intricate works. Now, her subjects range from the history of mole, a sauce that represents a synthesis of Native and Spanish cultures, to contemporary social issues such as violence against women.

Castillo came to the United States at age 24 and initially supported herself by working as an accountant. For fifteen years, she taught at MujerArtes, a women's ceramic and clay arts collective. Until December 2012, she also was an artist-in-residence at Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio. In July 2014, she opened Ecos y Voces de Arte (Echoes and Voices of Art), a new gallery and studio on the city’s historically Hispanic South Side. “This space is the fulfillment of a dream I've had since I was a girl,” she told a San Antonio Express-News reporter. “It's going to be a space open to everybody — women, men, gays, lesbians, transgender people.” She will also continue to teach at the new facility, which, in addition to an exhibition space, houses a shop with clothes, tapestries, rugs and clay and metal works by other Mexican artisans on sale. Castillo explained that this will help artists who have been forced to seek other outlets for sales because of the impact of drug violence on tourism in their own country. She also plans to “bring the world to San Antonio” by carrying works by artists from Central and South America, Europe, Africa and India.

In the program book for a 2012 exhibition of her work at the Esperanza Center, she was quoted as saying, “Since my parents conceived me, I have had an intimate and intense relationship with clay, as well as a fluid connection and contact with the earth and water that give shape to my art, a gift endowed at birth that has given my family its artistic legacy in folk art."

Bibliography
Beete, Paulette. “Art Works Blog: Art Talk with Veronica Castillo, 2013 NEA Heritage Fellow,” September 23, 2013. http://arts.gov/art-works/2013/art-talk-veronica-castillo-2013-nea-national-heritage-fellow
Silva, Elda. “Folk artist brings new voice to the South Side.” San Antonio Express-News, July 26, 2014. http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Folk-artist-brings-new-voice-to-the-South-Side-5649555.php
____. “Awards, art are family’s tradition.” San Antonio Express-News, June 6, 2013. http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/article/Awards-art-are-family-s-tradition-4584501.php
“NEA National Heritage Fellowships: Verónica Castillo.” http://arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/ver%C3%B3nica-castillo

Videography
“Veronica Castillo segment from HOLIDAY episode.” http://arts.gov/file/veronica-castillo-segment-holiday-episode

Watch

Verónica Castillo explains her artwork, with translation by Norma Cantú, 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Listen

Verónica Castillo answers the questions 'Where you are from and what your childhood was like? When you started making ceramic work, what was the subject matter?' Translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo talks about the start of learning her craft, translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo describes the burners, translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo answers the question 'When did you come to Texas and why?' Translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo answers the question 'How are the ceramic pieces used in San Antonio in your community today?' Translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo answers the question 'Who are some of the individuals you focus on and why?' Translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo answers the question 'What is the process for making one of these pieces?' Translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo answers the question 'Is the piece not an identical representation, but a symbolic one?' Translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo answers the question 'Step by step, what is your process?' Translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo answers the question 'In what ways have you been able to pass this tradition on to the next generation?' Translated by Norma Cantú, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Verónica Castillo talks about teaching traditions to children, Translated by Norma Cantú, Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013

Norma Cantú answers the question 'As a folklorist, can you talk about Verónica Castillo's work and the significance of it?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013