Friday, August 16, 2013

James Castle

James Castle (1899-1977) lived all his life among his relatives in rural Idaho. He was born deaf and never learned any formal system of communication. Instead, he devoted nearly every waking minute to drawing and painting and to the construction of three dimensional assemblages from scrap paper and other scavanged materials. Through this daily making, he found a way to communicate that must have satisfied him, since he persisted in it for about seventy years.

Images above from the ambitious retrospective mounted at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2008-09. Nearly all Castle's surviving work was created later than 1931. For twenty years before that, he was already producing enormous numbers of cardboard creatures, enormous accumulations of drawings. These were all left behind when the family moved from one farm to another, first in 1923 and again in 1931. Consequently, nearly all the work that survives dates from the long stable period in Castle's living circumstances after the family settled on the outskirts of Boise in the early 1930s.