Tuesday, August 20, 2013


These farmyard landscapes were the first images I chanced to see when I became aware of artist James Castle (1899-1977). They remain with me as the essence of his art, even though the distortions and singularities that distinctively mark most of his work are not forcefully evident here.

Those above were drawn from memories of the farm in Garden Valley, Idaho where James Castle grew up. He continued to draw this landscape all his life, even though his family sold the farm in 1923. They moved to another part of the state. As their dependent, the deaf son who could not speak or read or write went along to other places with other atmospheres.

Fragments of architecture could float free if they chose. They looked equally coherent scattered around a field or assembled into vibrating emanence.

Toward the end of his life James Castle repeatedly drew small freestanding houses and made a point of showing the pictures to his relatives. They understood these drawings as a request for his own little house to live in elsewhere on the property, outside the family house. As the fifties turned into the sixties, Castle's work (promoted by a nephew) began to be shown and sold on a small scale in regional galleries. To their great credit, family members used the first money generated by art sales to buy a small prefabricated house. James Castle inhabited it and appeared to be delighted with it.