Eric Castillo, 2011 Mellon Fellow

The public art of sculptor Luis Jimenez has been an inspiration for Eric Castillo, a Mellon Fellow who recently completed his dissertation, "Expressions of Another Center: Borderlands Visual theory & the Art of Luis Jimenez." Castillo graduated in May. 

Castillo says, "From a very young age I was fascinated with public art.  When we drove to my abuelita's house on the west side of San Antonio, Texas these huge Mexican American murals decorated the apartment complexes.  At that time I wasn't able to articulate the profound impact they had on me but I felt as though they carved out a space for me to belong – to exist-in the public sphere."

Castillo's dissertation explores the impact of Jimenez's art in challenging and transforming traditional notions of American art and identity.  Each chapter functions as a case study that examines how American identity is constructed vis-á-vis topics such as identity politics in New Mexico, institutional racism, Western iconography, immigration, Anglo exceptionalism and Chicana/o art.

Castillo is one of the first to write seriously about the art of Jimenez, who died in 2006.  He was an American Studies graduate student and now works as the assistant director of Multicultural & Diversity Affairs and director of the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures or "La Casita" at the University of Florida.  He is currently developing a strong advocacy and social justice foundation for students to participate in and lead campaigns for cultural awareness, social justice and community empowerment.

Castillo says the Mellon Fellowship helped him complete his research and write more quickly.  He says the fellowship helped prepare him to succeed in a competitive academic field and provided networking opportunities and financial support so he could travel to do his research.  Castillo says the time with his fellow  graduate students of color or ‘Mellonistas' at the University of New Mexico helped him find the strength and wisdom to complete his academic work.

Media contact: Karen Wentworth (505) 277-5627; e-mail: