Category: James Cassell Gallery
| 02 April, 2012 13:55
Notes to Myself
I’ve been scribbling things down on paper my whole life. On the back of bills, business cards, grocery receipts, anything that’s handy, as a way of holding on to what feels important to me in the moment: maybe a turn in my life’s direction; someone I’ve noticed; an unidentifiable fear. Some of this is at the edge of my awareness--as if I were trying to lasso a bird in the air--and writing it down makes it more concrete and provides some sense of control. Over time, the scraps of paper mount into small dusty piles and eventually get tossed in a box. Years later when I open the box and happen to read these jottings I encounter a self in formation, inchoate, raw, messy. These canvases reflect some of these “notes to myself” from an earlier time in my life.
| 02 April, 2012 13:47
3 canvases 20x24 each Medium: acrylic
In the aftermath of September 11, there was, for me, only one choice about what kind of painting to make: It would emanate from my deep anger and sorrow.
Color was the first thing I considered. I felt compelled to paint darkness and, after that, an intense red. The dark color is rendered along the spectrum from black to green. The red isn’t just a pure red; it is, at times, rose, crimson, even a sort of pink. As I worked I noticed the remaining white area on the canvas, and I chose to leave it as a kind of floating white space with some color worked into it.
The words followed. Lines from psalm 23 had been repeating themselves in my mind ever since the event, and I painted them onto the first panel. (Each panel contains lines from that psalm.) I had been reading news materials, and I wove in something I read about the chaplain who died giving Last Rites to a fireman.
The middle panel contains a description of the inferno. I was steered to literary sources, too; thus the lines from Allen Ginsberg’s great Beat poem, Howl.
My source for the third panel was the ongoing series in The New York Times, “A Nation Challenged: Portraits of Grief.” These short biographies make each person real. I strung lines from many of the stories—selecting specific qualities, incidents—into a kind of single narrative. In doing so, I, like many others, try to ensure that those who died are remembered as individuals and not as abstractions.
James Cassell 2002