Saturday, November 29, 2008

James Castle and the art of making art with what you've got

In truth, my long walk down Philadelphia's beautiful, and art filled parkway was a way to kill an afternoon, while my wife spent the afternoon with the womenfolk at an afternoon luncheon, and some post-repast shopping.

We ambled past the Rodin museum where the boys posed like The Thinker. We all paid our respects to the Rocky statue, then raced up the steps toward the museum on the hill.

I wasn't sure how long great art could keep the attention of five year olds, but we breezed through the armor display, and spent a bit of time focusing on some masters of late 19th and early 2oth century art, where the boys lingered a good 15 minutes watching a student artist copying one of the masters.

But we were all taken with the extensive display of art by James Castle, a naif, untutored master who, when he died in 1977, left behind a treasure-trove of simple masterpieces fashioned, literally from string, paper sacks, spit and ingenuity.

We sat, and rested our legs, and watched the wonderful documentary, James Castle:Portrait of an Artist, then walked through the amazing, densely populated exhibit of made-over ads, instructive illustrated booklets, cardboard-cutout portraits, carton sculpture and barnyard illustrations, and each of us was fascinated in our own way.

He was a bit of a recluse, deaf, perhaps autistic and driven by his need to create, and until well into his career, clueless that anyone outside of family and close friends might care about his creations.

This exhibit is well-worth a trip to the interesting city of Philadelphia which understands that art is as important as sports team to make a city alluring.

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