James Castle, Untitled (black form), n.d. Found paper, soot, color of unknown origin, string, 6 1/4 x 8 3/8 in.
In the new double show at Jackson’s Tayloe Piggott Gallery, there’s a complementary and slightly chilling collection of works by James Castle and Nicola Hicks. Castle was a profoundly deaf, self-taught artist. His mother was a midwife and his father ran the Garden Valley, Idaho post office.
James Castle, Untitled (flamingo)
n.d., Found paper, soot, color of unknown origin, string. Found paper, soot, color of unknown origin, string, 28 3/4 x 10 in.
Always poor, often on subsistence, Castle came to know a little sign language and developed a love for lettering. He “…is known for the skill of his draftsmanship,…subject matter and for his use of found and homemade materials. His recurrent and diverse themes tell an intimate story of a life lived in rural Idaho during the 20th century.”
Looking at Castle’s work I experience guilt as if I’ve broken into a child’s secret diary. It’s slightly agonizing, albeit fascinating, to study a Castle work; they’re heartrending. Eternally enigmatic, but with glimpses of a compromised soul’s joy in creating art. Displaying a man-child’s heart, Castle’s works seem stuffed in tiny boxes. Imagine, too, the drawings of an unborn child tucked in a dark, warm space, sensing fuzzy edges of the outside world.
Nicola Hicks’ electric, recumbent bear prompted an email to friends much more familiar with bears’ private behavior. “Would a bear lie in this position on its own accord,” I asked. “Or would it only roll over on its back, belly exposed, if it was coerced by humans?”
Nicola Hicks, Untitled (Bear laying down), 2010 Charcoal and chalk on brown paper, 66 x 82 in.
Bears do lie around tummy up. “They’re like dogs,” one of my experts explained. “They can be spotted rolling around in dense forest glens or by a body of water, cooling off.”
Nicola Hicks, Owl, ed. 1/1, 2014. Monoprint, 29 3/4 x 22 1/8 in. (75.6 x 56.2 cm)
All this goes along with what seems to be Hicks’ core artist statement: Creatures of the earth are “…animalistic in form and body, yet uncannily human.” She’s on the anthropomorphism train.
Hicks’ show includes plaster casts (ultimately brass sculptures) of animals—seemingly locked in suffocating, snare-like dried mud pierced by sharp objects—and works on paper. It’s tempting to grab a sledgehammer and free these entombed creatures. Something new, an exercise in “different.” Hicks’ chalk, charcoal and monoprints depict wild and domestic animals, extended and sinewy. A portrait of a big sleeping dog has real heft. You feel the weight of the animal’s massive head.
The bear wins!
The exhibition remains on display through August 16th, 2015. www.tayloepiggottgallery.com
Katy Ann Fox, “On the Way to Breakfast.” 12×12″ Oil on Panel
Together or Separate: New Works by Eleanor Anderson and Katy Ann Fox, opens at the Daly Gallery-Daly Project on Thursday, July 9, with a reception from 5-7:00pm. Anderson’s bright, whimsical ceramics and Fox’s airy, well-composed canvases are on view through July 24th.
“We strive to be open Tuesday through Saturday, 1o AM to 6 PM. Or by appointment, 307-699-7933,” notes the gallery. http://www.dalyartistrep.com
And don’t forget: Catch up with more Jackson Hole art scene goings-on by logging on to https://funthingstodoinjacksonhole.wordpress.com. This week: “Plein Air for the Park!”
Erin C. O’Connor. On Evening’s Edge. Oil on Linen.