Speaking to Casteel, gazing upon her African Marigold, I am at once with nature, history and reality. The work is deeply personal – indicative, clearly, of her recent work, In bloom, at Casey Kaplan gallery. The work, she tells me, is a shot – a viewpoint from the flowers that grow in her garden. Amongst them we see forget-me-nots and marigolds softly steaming from shower precipitation. Foggy mist forms droplets in the background and obscures our view into Casteel’s garden. Is that a peek of her bathtub in the bottom? Are we put in Casteel’s persona? Toned down moments to reflect and impact on her contemplative space. So contemplative that zoning into the flowers feels like meditation, like the adrenaline release at the end of a day or the first moments waking up to streams of sun warming ones face. We all have those sacred moments; and we’ve seen them in art history from quiet Northern Renaissance domestic scenes to personal introspections of 1970’s feminist art… Casteel draws attention to our sacred times, always profound and non reliant on content.
Think a moment on Elizabeth Alexander’s The Black Interior, I think of the interior lives of Blackness multifaceted.
“In my mothers living room, there are shelves upon which she has arranged many beautiful and extraordinary objects.” Alexander discusses her mom's shelves, and the treasures that live there – the artful arrangements that intuitively create the sum of many stories, and layers of personalities. For Casteel, the window sill holds character. She believes what we put on our window sill relates to our value systems, the story we wish to tell the world, the important narratives on our mind or the secondary thoughts that escape in what might seem a casual pastime of decoration or interior design.
“There Is A Season, my last MASSIMODECARLO exhibition, was the very beginning of me considering the landscape on a broader spectrum – the landscape of my life. This is particularly true with a specific work featured in that exhibition titled The New Black View, which similarly features a windowsill as the focal point of the painting. I had observed in the home of James a portrait of him and his wife and a portrait of Barack Obama. The relationship between the objects on the mantle tells a story of who he is. African Marigold similarly tells a story, but of where I am right now and what I am placing my value on – which is sacred time and flowers in general and the joy and the peace that that brings.”
But still, the flowers are the protagonist. There, Casteel implores texture, focus and weight – flora is the sitter. She is soft and ethereal cushioned softly in a blurred nostalgic background. Lulled in a dream space, Casteel offers us a chance to regroup and redream.