‘Defense Mechanism’ by John Casey
Artist: John Casey
Title: ‘Defense Mechanism’
Medium: Pencil and coloured pencil on paper
Dimensions: 14″ x 11″
Year of Creation: 2021
About the Artist:
For most of my career I have been exploring open-ended narratives in my work. Using mostly a portrait format, I tap into my subconscious and psychological brain space, to conjure loose metaphors and symbols, and weave them into compelling characters. Some of these beings represent a kind of psychological self-portrait. Others represent people I have encountered throughout my lifetime, friends, neighbors, and generally everyday folks. Often these characters are amalgamations. These beings are not specific portraits, more like the impression of various people. The character’s life-story is left open to interpretation, inviting the viewer into the story-telling process. The results are what appear to be damaged or vulnerable beings, but a second look reveals complex and sensitive spirits, more like enthusiastic upstarts, rather than rejects or troublemakers.
Born on Friday the 13th in 1964 in Salem, Massachusetts, I started inventing creatures as soon as I was able to hold a crayon. Drawings that my mother saved from when I was only three years old reveal my obsession with the figure. The figures in these drawings show not only the distorted perceptions of a child, but my fascination with skulls, teeth, spirographic eyes, and invented body parts. My obsession with strange creatures continued throughout my youth. Monster models, war dioramas, dinosaurs, and horror movies on television occupied much of my time as well as drawing.
I graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1988 with a BFA in Painting. At the time I was making art that focused on surreal and psychological figurative painting and drawing. A bit later I added sculpture as part of my process, and my subjects continue to reveal a surreal bent in both structure and narrative. I have shown in galleries in Boston, Portland, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, as well as international venues in France, Germany, and Denmark. My work is included in collections at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the di Rosa Preserve in Napa, California, and the Artothèque de Caen in France.
I moved to the Bay Area a number of years ago and currently live in Oakland, California with my lovely wife Mary.