Verónica Castillo specializes in Trees of Life. The branches of her clay trees are not only ornamented with the usual leaves and flowers, but also singing birds, dancing dogs, and strolling guitarists may adorn the foliage.
The Forest Hills Branch Library, 5245 Ingram Road, is featuring the intricate ceramic artwork of Castillo, a recipient of the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, until March 15.
Castillo remains one of the preeminent tree of life artists in the United States and Mexico. Numerous museums and galleries on both sides of the border have exhibited her work. Two years ago, the Centro de Artes in Market Square displayed her work alongside the paintings of Kathy Sosa.
At one time, Castillo considered a career in accounting but after a year, she resolved to devote her energies to the art of polychromatic ceramic work.
The roots of her trees run deep. Castillo was born in the Mexican state of Puebla into a family of ceramic artists. Her ancestors are famous for their creation of Arbol de la Vida (Tree of Life) and candelabra sculptures.
Her family has earned many regional, national, and international awards. Museums ranging from Chicago, Brazil, and Spain exhibit their artwork. Today, Castillo and her siblings are the fourth generation practicing their craft.
“This is a tradition we pass down from family to family,” she explained in a video about her work.
Watch a short video documentary of Castillo's work below.
Castillo has been teaching her area of expertise in San Antonio at La Casita de MujerArtes Cooperativa, coordinated by the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, for almost 20 years. She has taught more than 200 women the art of shaping clay by hand since the early 1990s.
Aficionados of her work can find it at Galeria E.V.A. (Ecos y Voces de Arte), which Castillo operates at 3412 S. Flores.
Her work is very intricate, with almost microscopic details on each figure. While some of Castillo’s trees are religious in nature – with many containing symbols of the nativity – others portray life at the opposite end of the spectrum.
“It’s a tradition in Mexico to celebrate the dead,” Castillo said in a video documenting her work.
Some of her artwork explores social and contemporary issues. All of Castillo’s art is gentle and colorful. Soul and sensitivity grow on each branch. Castillo’s trees consecrate the depth and richness of the essence of life.
View a photo gallery of a previous exhibit of Castillo's work below.
Castillo believes that art is a necessity in the life of every human being and yet the traditional arts are disappearing.
“I want to use what I have been given, to share my culture and my traditions, to transmit them in this country that adopted me,” she states on her website.
The exhibit at Forest Hills Branch Library will be on display until March 15. The public is invited to a reception for the artist on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m.
**Cover Image: One of Veronica Castillo's many creations from her Trees of LIfe exhibit. Photo by B. Kay Richter.