As an art student at the University of Texas Rio Grande, Josie Del Castillo came to appreciate the rich pigment of oils and how easily they spread across the canvas. “I didn’t get it at first, but it made me want to practice,” she says. “The techniques that I’ve developed now—I always go back to oil painting, even though I’ve tried other mediums.” A first-generation, Mexican-American artist raised in the border town of Brownsville, Texas, Del Castillo produces self-portraits and portraits of her friends and family, her canvases depicting the landscape of her hometown, with its palm trees, resacas, and sunsets framed by tall clouds.
Growing up, Del Castillo and her family crossed the border often to visit family in Mexico. “I never really saw a difference between the two countries until I was older,” she says. “We always saw it as ‘going to the other side.’” Today she celebrates the similarities and differences between two cultures in her work, often by means of natural symbolism. The aloe plant, for example, “has healing powers in Mexican-American culture, so I use that to symbolize healing ourselves.” Del Castillo’s portraits often explore her own resiliency and that of her Brownsville community. “I’m intrigued by people’s personalities, how they present themselves, and what they do for the community,” she says.
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