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Johnny Castillo, Fine Art, Immigrant Artist, Artist, Art in Los Angeles


Johnny Castillo (b. 1995, Oratorio, Santa Rosa, Guatemala) recently graduated from the School of Art at Cal State University Long Beach with a BFA in Drawing and Painting.


Having arrived in Los Angeles at the tender age of 6, Castillo's artistic endeavors illuminate the intricacies of navigating two distinct cultures by delving into profound themes of displacement and impermanence inherent in the immigrant experience. 

Artist Statement:

As a first-generation Guatemalan Artist and DACA recipient, Castillo’s work captures the essence of fragmented memories intertwining depictions of himself with seemingly mundane objects that link the narrative together. Drawing inspiration from 17th-century "Genre" painting, the impressionist movements of the "Flaneur," and the absorptive ethos of 18th-century French painting, Castillo aims to elevate the ordinary to invite viewers into a dialogue on intention, contemplation, psychological states, and a quest for belonging.

His artistic process unfolds in a fragmentary manner, merging diverse memories into singular compositions that hover between the realms of normalcy and dreaminess. Alluding to the idea of anamorphosis, these compositions, neither entirely logical nor firmly grounded, beckon the viewer into a transformative experience where the manipulation of perspectives and deliberate wonkiness mimic a shifting gaze. Castillo deliberately embraces the warping of the objects closest to the viewer while allowing the focal point to remain stable, inviting the viewer to step into the moment with him.

Drawing inspiration from classical masters like Velasquez, Manet, Sergeant, and Monet who paved the artistic path before him, Castillo employs a fusion of traditional oil painting techniques—glazing, scumbling, gestural marks, and thick-over-thin applications. Actively engaging in a nuanced dialogue with the past, he seeks innovative ways to blend the old with the new. Chromatic underlayers evolving with color shifts, deliberate manipulation of color, diverse mark-making, exploration of the sculptural quality of media, extreme perspectival elements, and changes in scale collectively contribute to the psychologically charged narrative of his compositions.


Presently, Castillo's artistic journey revolves around the exploration of distant childhood memories, requiring him to sift through the hazy and vulnerable layers of the past. This ongoing excavation often surprises him, as a single memory can serve as a catalyst unearthing a multitude of other recollections previously dormant in his mind. Continuing this perpetual excavation of personal history, Castillo is struck by the remarkable influence of the landscapes from his native Guatemala on the formation of each memory. This revelation prompts contemplation on how a shifting environment can indelibly impact one's mental and psychological development. For instance, the vibrant and tropical landscape of his homeland in Guatemala sharply contrasts with the urban beauty of Los Angeles, where Castillo now resides. This interplay of settings fuels a longing for the natural splendor of his homeland as he delves deeper into his introspective journey, reinforcing the idea that the landscapes encountered can profoundly shape identities.


Through this intimate exploration, Castillo aspires that others may discover inspiration to turn inward, uncovering fragments of themselves believed to be long forgotten.

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