Nearly 40 years after his death, the art and life of Idaho’s James Castle continue to captivate the art world.
The latest posthumous exhibition is now on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum until Feb. 1, 2015, in Washington, D.C.
“Untitled: The Art of James Castle” contains 54 of Castle’s drawings and constructions, a gift of the James Castle Collection and Archive and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment.
Check out this recent article in the Washington Post. "James Castle, subject of Smithsonian show, put ‘taught’ in self-taught" discusses the role of self-taught, or outsider, artists in the greater art world through the lens of Castle’s biography and enormous catalog of work.
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Castle was profoundly deaf and did not speak. He grew up in Garden Valley and lived with his family in Boise until he died in 1977. In the past two decades he has gained international acclaim and is widely collected. He received no formal art training and is considered one of America’s foremost outsider artists.
The world of art critics and academics loves to classify: outsider artist as opposed to a trained artist. That being self-taught is a lesser way of creating.
That’s interesting to me because it’s only the skill of art — drawing techniques, methods and art history — that can be taught. What it takes and means to be an artist in the truest sense is an unknown factor that changes from person to person. It’s in the biography and ephemeral experiences that inform their lives.
Castle, and others such as Grandma Moses, Moses Tolliver and Henri Rousseau, saw the world creatively through their individual experience and then expressed it in interesting ways, as any artist does.
Another Idaho artist William D. Lewis once told me that it took 10 years after graduating from art school to forget everything he was taught to become an artist.
An art education creates a cauldron that allows people to explore ideas and translate their understanding of it through an artistic medium. It teaches you to observe and think critically. That’s all great, but as a culture, maybe we’ve grown to respect the education of technique of art over the expression and experience of it.
In the Post article the writer posits: “Experts are divided on how museums should contextualize works such as Castle’s. On a panel at the American Art Museum in October, moderator Bell asked panelists what it would take for them to be satisfied that Castle had received due recognition. “To walk into the prints and drawings department at the British Museum and see his work alongside Jasper Johns or Rembrandt,” said Lynne Cooke, a senior curator at the National Gallery of Art.”
Read an article in The Atlantic: “The Rise of Self-Taught Artists” by Sarah Boxer.