Cohort 52 is a platform for emerging voices from the Applied Art & Design program at Sierra College in Northern California. Cohort 52 is facilitated by Assistant Professor Vincent Pacheco.


Moisés Castillo

What once knocked down my ability to express myself is now building back up to a stronger version of me with a more creative portal to express by.




Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

My name is Moisés Castillo. I am an artist-painter and father of a 10-year-old. I have been studying art for over two decades and have been painting for that amount of time. I naturally gravitated toward representational art as a young art student with a background in a conservative art program. I have had access to contemporary art philosophies while studying at Sacramento State University in the Studio Art program. I am working on applying to graduate school this coming season at UC Davis. I am an art nerd, and I love learning, reading, and passing on what I learn to my son.


How much experience do you have with collage?

I have had zero hands-on experience. I just never had the desire or the direction to do collage.


Collage artists tend to be picky when it comes to their source material. Can you talk about your approach for selecting your images and/or publications?

I may be a low-key book or magazine hound because, in my spare time at Sacramento State, I would visit the library sales and just spend a lot of time in the various sections of the library. The one thing about Sacramento State is the vast collection of books and media. There I found Las Estrellas magazine from the 50’s I believe. A lot of spreads of older Hollywood actors of the 40’s and 30’s some Film Noir which I liked. Not from Sacramento State, but from a thrift store I used Laphame’s Quarterly. The rest of the material I had was from old Graphic Design magazines from the 80’s and it was a real treat to see what was popular back then. I had some free miscellaneous materials from local surroundings.


Were there any large themes you intended to explore or unpack before you began with this series of work? Did you stay on theme, or did things change as you began physically cutting and pasting images?

The prompt for the collage challenge was “Your World” I passed in inequities as a variable and built off that to form what I have in this zine sprinkled with some cryptic personal traumas layered around inequities. 


How did your background and life experiences inform your collages?

During my life, I have had great experience creating art in that I felt uplifted and empowered to create and that has been a big part of my for a long time. As in life sometimes we encounter soul-sucking villains. That left me in a bad traumatic space a couple of times for a long time. Finally, I made some new art friends and I was able to do some soul retrieval work, and I found a new practice of making art/ paintings of my moods or personal experiences. What once knocked down my ability to express myself is now building back up to a stronger version of me with a more creative portal to express by.


What was your environment and set-up like when making the work? Did you listen to music? Did you work in isolation, or were you surrounded by distraction? Do you think this influenced the work you made?

My environment is a small space tucked away on the side of the kitchen. Not the best space, yet I have some room for my desk and tables. My computer and piles of books and magazines, art materials in the surrounding area, canvas, and paintings. The music I listen to rotates based on mood and sprinkled in some podcasts in there, “Creative Codex” is my current favorite. I also vibe from Suzanne Ciani- Improvisation of Four Sequences. I also drink lots of fresh-ground organic coffee or whole-leaf teas. None of that Starbucks stuff here. I eat strategically light enough for my brain to activate, so I can get a good workflow going on without feeling a brain drain from the digestion process. My son does have moments of distraction. He is good about respecting my space and art time, so it is not a big deal at the moment.


Scissors or X-Acto?

Both and a razor blade- mostly.


Was there anything unexpected that emerged while creating your work? Any new epiphanies?

As viewed on the KVIE special, The spirit of the Zine is to have a tangible object to share in a personable fashion which is a contrast to the web where there is a screen and ecosystem of servers with almost unlimited content to compete with. Did I mention- I am a web designer? When I started this project I thought why not publish to the Web? Surely, I can do both. But being live in person with other zine artists and audiences is a special vibe that can not be replicated online even if we are in a Zoom meeting. Furthermore, I encountered a lot of pathways possibilities for diversifying my workflow. This turned out to be an active imagination of visual composition in many ways that I relate to free writing and there is power in that to free up and shuffle memory static or art blocks.


Looking at your work again, has your understanding of your collages changed over time? Has any hidden meaning emerged?

The theme of my work is to attempt to explore the subconscious to bring out anything that I need to explore in the living world by any means possible. Recontextualizing published content in the form of collages has allowed me to expand my vocabulary and symbols of this process instead of living in the abstract and making sense of it which is difficult. This is a form of reverse abstract and for me at least can be performed or transmuted to an abstract concept visually and or reproduced using another medium however I wish, expanding or deep diving into conceptual themes for thought processes kind of like the Yin and Yang of self-expression or tool kit.


Many artists are using the pandemic as a moment to pause and reflect. Do you think Covid-19 informed your work in any way? 

For me, the high COVID era left me depressed and in a deep funk. The last thing on my mind was to self-express, reflect, and realign. Not only was there COVID-19 but all the chaos with political and social justice nonsense just buried me deeper. I am a very sensitive person, and that took a toll on me. I think if anything the political divide, polarizations, and echo chambers contributed more to my work than COVID. We have tools for COVID-19 now to help suppress and treat people. The latter is not so much, there’s the work for the artist and if he or she is not churning emotion then they are doing it wrong.