“OUTSIDER” ARTIST JAMES CASTLE

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Artist James Castle (1899-1977) was born to a large Irish Catholic family in rural Idaho. His parents farmed and served as postmasters in Garden Valley. Profoundly deaf since birth, he attended the Idaho State School for the Deaf and Blind for five years, but learned neither to read, lip-read, nor sign.

He also left behind an astonishing body of work estimated to run between 5000 and 20,000 pieces. Falling into three main categories—drawings, assemblages, and handmade books and text pieces using letters, numbers, and characters, many self-invented, Castle’s is possibly the largest existing oeuvre for a single artist.

Almost as astonishing as Castle’s output and sophistication was the fact his family, also from the start, respected, honored and accommodated his craft.

To a person they agreed that Jim was never much on chores, nor did they require him to be.

The family moved twice within Idaho—first to Star in 1923, then to the outskirts of Boise in 1931. Castle had no contact with the “art world,” no mentor, no formal education beyond those five years.

He reportedly had three basic hand signals: “go,” “eat,” and “love”—the last of which consisted in placing his hand over his heart.

With those, and his evidently vast intelligence and imagination, he taught himself: painting, perspective, construction. He made his own “ink” from soot and spit. With scrap paper and cardboard, dime-store watercolors, home-made paste, scissors and twine, he created a world—an empire.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

2 Replies to ““OUTSIDER” ARTIST JAMES CASTLE”

  1. Thank you Heather for introducing me to this artist.

    1. Paul, I’m so glad you responded to James Castle. I got a couple of books and a video about him from my local library and was simply entranced. Such a mysterious, wondrous, inner life…thank you for your readership and support.

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS!