THE Magazine Profile

THE Magazine Profile

Paula Castillo is a Priestess of Postmodern Metallurgy

Recombining the scrap and detritus of Industry into abstract sculptures that quietly reckon with earth and man. A metallurgist only in a poetic, alchemical sense—she’d be quick to tell you the technical and conceptual distinctions between welding, blacksmithing, and more—she prefers the practice of additive welding for her own work. Castillo’s sculptures manage to turn steel byproduct into morphous shapes that are often organic or animated. Her materials are repurposed and recycled, yet the past lives and stories of the scrap lurk and echo within like an untold story of aspiration and waste. We visited the artist at her studios in the picturesque village of Cordova, a short jaunt from the High Road to Taos.


Lauren Tresp: Why are you here in Cordova?

Paula Castillo: I came to Cordova in 1985—was it ’85 or ’83?—to teach school. I was born down in Belen, south of Albuquerque. I grew up right by the railroad tracks. I got a cool teaching job right up here. And I have family from the Santa Fe area, Galisteo area, too. So these are my studios right here. When I first came to Cordova, I lived in the big house that we were in, the old adobe place. As a schoolteacher, I was the last schoolteacher to live there. And so that family, Josefita and Emilio Cordova were like the Don and Doña of Cordova, and they housed the schoolteachers, real old fashioned–like. I literally was the last schoolteacher to live there, and that was a really sweet experience for me. Later I convinced Terry [Mulert] to come to New Mexico to live here. We’d been married and lived in Europe for a couple years and then came back.