Scarecrows — John Casey at the Clay Studio and in print

John Casey
John Casey, Fourth Born,  Mixed Media, 2008.  approx. 11″ tall.

When I saw John Casey‘s small cartoonish clay figures at the Clay Studio they resonated as weird bogeymen. The show’s called No One We Know and the pieces are titled First Born, Second Born etc. setting the stage for an open reading of the trunk-less little men with the gourd-end noses and worried expressions.

Clay figuration has always ranged the gamut from serious academic studies whose goal is beauty to Hummel figurines (goal=comfort and fantasy) …to Robert Arneson‘s warts-and-all self portraits (goal=humor, self-parody, social commentary). I’d put Casey close to Arneson as a self-parodist who’s also making social commentary. Arneson was a West Coast guy and so is Casey (Massachusetts born but now living in Oakland, CA)

Also, here’s another artist whose need for a big nose moment just can’t be held down. See also Ed Paschke, Josh Rickards).

John Casey, Second Born, Mixed Media, 2008. approx. 11" tall.
John Casey, Second Born, Mixed Media, 2008. approx. 11″ tall.

After seeing the show I stumbled across a John Casey book, Scarecrow, that I’d been sent in November — Hah!  I’d forgotten all about the little artist’s book and its beautiful and odd drawings of men with carrot noses, four eyes, and weirdly assembled bodily and facial features.  I remember loving its contemporary/Stone Age Dr. Frankenstein affect.  So here’s the same artist working in clay and in ink.  Nice.

John Casey, Scarcrow, book cover
Book Cover of John Casey’s Scarecrow

Scarecrow, John Casey, back cover
Back cover of Scarecrow

The drawings and the clay figures are as one. Their aesthetic is a kinder, gentler Night of the Living Dead.  Zombie-oids, not Zombies. My favorite is the drawing on the book’s front and back covers which shows a young man in t-shirt and shorts pulling a wooden cart which contains an enormous head. The mashup of Medieval (cart) and contemporary (cargo pants) is just great as is the idea of pulling your big head behind you.

John Casey, Scarecrow
What art today can resist the urge to include skulls in it? 

Here are a couple Casey skulls with the page on the left a “ghost” page with (I believe) silver ink on black. There are several ghost pages in the book.

John Casey, book pages from Scarecrow

John Casey, Scarecrow book pages

Scarecrow — a very reasonable $20 — has 60 drawings in two-color offset printing on recycled paper. The publisher is Rowan Morrison, an artist-run gallery, bookstore and art book publisher in Oakland, CA. Get the book here.

And because you can’t keep a great idea down, I will remind you that the awesome Space 1026, one of our local artist-run galleries, has a bookstore — and is also an art book publisher through Max Lawrence’Free News Projects. Speaking of which, I can’t wait to get my hands on that new Matt Leines book, You Are Forgiven.