Thursday, September 5, 2019

By Amanda Taylor

UTRGV MFA student Josie Delcastillo  (Courtesy Photo)
UTRGV MFA student Josie Delcastillo (Courtesy Photo)

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – A self-portrait of Josie Delcastillo features the artist standing boldly against a blood orange sky. Given the tears in her eyes and the cactus spines sprouting from her silhouette, she appropriately named her award-winning piece, “Don’t Touch Me, I am Sensitive.”

Her ability to paint her deep understanding of herself and her culture has landed Delcastillo as one of 40 finalists in the AXA Art Prize, a prestigious student art exhibition that travels nationwide.

“My work is inspired by my Mexican American culture, understanding my mental health and learning to appreciate my body,” said Delcastillo, currently a UTRGV MFA student. “As I make art, I am learning to appreciate my roots, the struggles of having anxiety and insecurities and hoping to overcome body issues.”

The first- and second-prize winners will be announced at the closing reception on Nov. 21 at the New York Academy of Art in New York City. The first-prize winner will get $10,000; second place is $5,000.

Delcastillo said opportunities like this don’t come easy for young, emerging artists.

“I have applied to other art exhibitions and I’ve been rejected many times, but that’s how this art life is,” she said. “I used to get discouraged by the lack of opportunities, but I am a very ambitious person with goals, and I just couldn’t give up that easily. I’ve learned that hard work always pays off.”

Being a part of this traveling exhibition was a grand prize in itself, the Brownsville native said, and she is planning to attend the closing ceremony in New York City in November.

“It brought me so much joy when I read the email that I had been accepted. As an emerging artist and student, I am taking advantage of every opportunity while I’m still in school,” she said. “For the past few years, I had set myself a goal of exhibiting outside the Rio Grande Valley. Slowly but surely, I have exhibited throughout Texas, and now nationally with this upcoming exhibition.”


Nominating the 40 finalists began with an online submission reviewed by a panel of more than 40 regional jurors from art institutions from across the United States.

Artwork submissions were weeded out, then reviewed by exhibition jurors from prestigious art institutions – including the MET, MoMA, Whitney and the New Museum – to choose the final 40 artists.

Finally, prize jurors and prominent artists Sanford Biggers, Will Cotton, John Currin and Tschabalala Self will review the 40 finalists to select the first- and second-prize winners.


Gianna Putrino, manager of Exhibitions and the AXA Art Prize, said the contest provides a unique platform for new artistic talent and gives the next generation of figurative artists the perfect forum in which to launch their careers.

“Our goal is to support the future of figurative artists,” she said, “and we hope the students recognize their potential and value as up-and-coming contributors to the art world.”

Delcastillo plans to continue to pursue a career in art and hopes to work in an artistic academic setting to help inspire the next generation of art students. As an art student pursuing her MFA in 2D Studio Art at UTRGV, Delcastillo said, she is seeing the benefits of an art education first-hand.

“I don’t see myself doing anything else other than this,” she said. “I want to become a professor, either at a university or community college. I want to be in an academic environment, where the student and professor are constantly learning and creating.”


The AXA Art Prize, formerly the XL Catlin Art Prize, shines a spotlight on the re-emergence of figurative art in the contemporary art world.

Now in its second year in North America, the prize is founded on a 10-year legacy of a previous prize which was established in the UK and recognized young artists through a prestigious London exhibition and catalogue publication. Over a decade the prize established a strong reputation as an insightful overview of emerging talent and has continued to build on that position of credibility in North America.

The AXA Art Prize is comprised of three exhibitions, taking place in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, and a printed catalogue, all designed to showcase the finalists’ work. The contest provides a unique platform for new artistic talent and gives the next generation of figurative artists the perfect forum in which to launch their careers.