Trees of Life

San Antonio cultural arts exhibit plants roots in tradition and innovation

San Antonio art exhibit plants roots in tradition and innovation

Veronica Castillo Trees of Life
"Trees of Life" features work by ceramic artist Veronica Castillo and painter Kathy Sosa. Photo by Kay Richter
Kathy Sosa Trees of Life
Kathy Sosa's art explores the fusion of races, ethnicities, languages, ideas, and cultures that characterize the Texas-Mexico border. Photo by Kay Richter
Veronica Castillo Trees of Life
Veronica Castillo's ceramics follows centuries of her ancestral traditions. Photo by Kay Richter
Kathy Sosa Trees of Life
Kathy Sosa's The Day of the Dead Gentlemen Callers and Their Muse on My Mind: Homage to Mom. Photo by Kay Richter
Veronica Castillo Trees of Life
The "Trees of Life" gallery runs through January 24, 2016 at Texas A&M-San Antonio Centro de Artes. Photo by Kay Richter
Veronica Castillo Trees of Life
Kathy Sosa Trees of Life
Veronica Castillo Trees of Life
Kathy Sosa Trees of Life
Veronica Castillo Trees of Life

The exhibit “Trees of Life,” hosted at Centro de Artes, celebrates culture, tradition, and innovation. Ceramic work by famed Mexican artist Veronica Castillo is paired with vibrant paintings by Kathy Sosa.

The details in Castillo’s artistry follow centuries of her ancestral traditions. Hailing from Izucar de Matamoros in Puebla, Mexico, her family is famous for its ceramic folk art.

“This is a tradition we pass down from family to family,” she explained in the exhibit’s film.

Castillo is one of the foremost tree of life artists in the United States and Mexico. In a short video playing at Centro de Artes, Castillo explained the marriage of her work and that of American-born Sosa. “It is the relationship between two cultures. It’s art because it conveys the life of an artist.”

Castillo has been teaching her area of expertise in San Antonio at La Casita de MujerArtes Cooperativa for 17 years. Her work is very busy with tiny, intricate 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. Instead of a child in a manger, one tree shows a grieving skeleton mother weeping for her child in a coffin. The skeleton father and a skeleton dog stand nearby. But everywhere, life abounds. Castillo’s trees of life celebrate the profundity of all creation. 

As bold and vibrant as the works of Castillo's are, the colors of Sosa’s are bright and pastel. While Castillo’s trees convey a story, Sosa’s trees provide introspection.

The Day of the Dead Gentlemen Callers and Their Muse on My Mind: Homage to Mom is one of the popular paintings by Sosa in the exhibit. A dozen men climb throughout the tree of the central character’s thought balloon. One holds a lightbulb (he is very bright). Another has money coming out of his ears (he has more cash than sense). Dancers, soldiers, musicians, and others fill the branches of the memory.

“Mother married five times,” Sosa writes as an explanation. “Twice to my father. She was very popular.”

Her mother is portrayed as standing on her head. This symbolizes her bon vivant nature.

“My mother was not a floozy, but she was a behaviorally liberated incorrigible flirt who loved to drive men mad and who didn’t give a flip what anybody thought, especially me,” Sosa writes.

Sosa’s mixed-medium paintings adorn the campuses of Say Si, Palo Alto College, and other schools across San Antonio. Her style combines papers, textiles, and oil portraits depicting women in their environments. For the last 10 years, she has explored the fusion of races, ethnicities, languages, ideas, habits, and cultures that characterize the Texas-Mexico border.

“The intended result is fine art laced with strong, distinctly decorative environmental elements,” she states. “The people in these paintings are colorful in every sense of the word and I aim to create a setting for each that reinforces and communicates their mood and personality.”  

The juxtaposition of the works by Castillo and Sosa complement and emphasize the uniqueness of each. The exhibit runs through January 24, 2016. There is no admission fee and the gallery is open to the public. 

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