Human instinct cannot be destroyed but can only be transformed into other states, altered reflections, distorted perceptions of ourselves. The idea of transformation which forms the basis of Oakland-based artist John Casey’s work is subtly internalized and provides for a meaningful symbolic representation of the state of duality we constantly experience in the world and within our own selves. The internal struggle between our hidden feelings and instincts is artistically and even more “physically” played out through the artist’s exploration of the so-called Emotional Biomorphology, a personally invented phenomenon that takes place in Casey’s alternate universe where people’s physiques morph based on their emotional and psychological states of mind. He says, “Imagine if what you were feeling emotionally manifested itself physically. A person’s head could disconnect and float away, or their body could grow an extra or disproportionate limb, or they could sprout multiple eyes. These beings are a lot like us, but not us. They live by different physical and biological rules”.
Casey’s ink drawings and small-scale sculptures are filled with twisted characters and heartfelt storylines that seem to be both visceral and introspective at the same. He delves deep into the intricate battleground of the human mind and earnestly exposes the post-modern condition every man is presently in. He’s powerful and powerless. Subversive and vulnerable. Brave and fragile. In this alternate world, masks are not allowed. And like the characters of John Casey, we turn into mild two-headed creatures fighting to retain our exceptional identity as real beings out of the ordinary, spreading our invisible, deformed, wings and flying across the oceans of rational thought . As Casey says, “My creatures are called monsters by some, but I often feel that the connotations associated with ‘monster’ don’t always apply to these little guys unless one can add descriptors like ‘vulnerable’ and ‘fragile’ to the definition of monster. Maybe I have issue with the monster moniker because I see my critters as self-portraits. Nick Capasso, director of the DeCordova Museum, once referred to my work as ‘little exorcisms’ and I like that description. The idea that I expel my inner demons in the form of drawn, painted, or sculpted critters appeals to me”.
Each exorcism comes with an underlying illustrated adventure and music seamlessly blends into it. In this new installment of our Tapes’n’Tales series, American artist John Casey will use his words and music like two added dimensions to the comprehension of his rich and riveting oeuvre. He tells us, “I chose the tracks like I choose titles for my work. Trying not choosing something too obvious in theme or title, I look for parallel clues and relationships. And the music offers me the opportunity to extend the open narrative in a kind of collaboration”. A literal collision of the absolute, immutable and hallucinatory worlds. The beautiful critters fly off into the horizon, vanishing from reality, the rest is purely imagined.
1# “HOUSE PET”, Pen and Watercolor on Paper, 20″ x 15″, 2010
ON THE TURNTABLE: The Cars, “I’m in Touch With Your World”
This two-headed head case is doubly in touch with your world. Could be the result of psilocybin.
2# “BIG IDEA”, Pen on Paper, 26″ x 20″, 2010
ON THE TURNTABLE: Fang Island, “Welcome Wagon”
This song bursts forward like an unbridled, multifaceted idea.
3# “SMILE”, Pen and Sumi Ink on Paper, 15″ x 15″, 2010
ON THE TURNTABLE: My Bloody Valentine, “Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside)”
This guy has a soft, warm relationship with his balloon friend. There appears to be warm, reciprocal affection.
4# “EARLY BLOOMER”, Pen on Paper, 20″x 15″, 2009
Pretty much speaks to the confusing relationships between men and women. When this young lady sends flowers, it’s very intellectual and personal.
5# “STRESSED”, Pen on Paper, 14″ x 11″, 2010
ON THE TURNTABLE: Battles, “Wall Street”
Hyper soundtrack for a very stressful day for this low-end shareholder.
6# “EFFIGY”, Pen and Acrylic Paint on Paper, 26″ x 20″, 2010
ON THE TURNTABLE: Neutral Milk Hotel, “Marching Theme”
A stumbling, drunken, march, ideal for the parade of dark effigies like this poor guy.
7# “WEED EATER”, Pen and Colored Pencil on Paper, 20″ x 15″, 2012
ON THE TURNTABLE: Black Sabbath, “Sweet Leaf”
I don’t smoke weed, but this tune rocks with a head-nodding thick riff to the joys of getting high. My weed eater fellow seems to be relaxed. Not so much from smoking Mary Jane but because, in spite of his green farmer’s thumb, he’s accepted the persistence of dandelions.
8# “DOLLIES”, Pen and Colored Pencil on Paper, 20″ x 15″, 2011
ON THE TURNTABLE: Blonde Redhead, “Doll is Mine”
The girls possess the dolls. Or do the dolls possess the girls. A song about possession.
Born on Friday the 13th in 1964 in Salem, Massachusetts, John Casey graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1988 with a BFA in Painting. His work is currently included in a group show titled FAX (May 4, 2012 – July 21, 2012) at San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery in San Francisco, CA. In August, he will have work in a group show titled “World Saving Device” at the Hive Gallery in Oakland, CA (“Theoretically, the World Saving Device will be constructed 250 years in the future. I imagine one major element in such a device will be “empathy.” So I will be working on an empathy sculpture-machine”).