Casey Cook created four works of art for the exhibition Area 919: Artists in the Triangle. Three are large sculptures made of cardboard, glue, wood and paint. One is a painting on cardboard. All are part of a body of work inspired by landscapes that the artist saw from a very small airplane. Find out more about Casey Cook’s work in this video. Portrait of Casey Cook by J Caldwell.
“Originally, I made these as maquettes for much larger sculptures that I want to make,” Casey told us. “They were sort of just small models that I wanted to make quickly, so cardboard was an amazing material to work with … because it’s free right outside my art studio. There’s a cabinet making shop so there are huge amounts of cardboard. It’s recycled. I liked the idea that they were made out of boxes that had traveled somewhere, that had a story, but then were being made into a completely different thing that never existed before. The shapes all come from each other. You can kind of see on some of the curves that maybe that piece was cut out of the other piece and then that leftover negative space at the time became the shape for the next sculpture. I was really interested in these sort of feminine shapes, but then these large, heavy sculptures, although I can lift them up with one hand so they’re not heavy, because it’s cardboard and very light. And then as I was making them, the material that I had chosen just because it was easy and quick to make these models, I fell in love with the cardboard. I fell in love with how I could make a drawing with a knife and cut out the shape really fast, how the cardboard absorbs the paint. That’s when I created the piece that’s all the way inside the gallery, Mama Bear, Baby Bear, which is not a sculpture as much as a painting on cardboard that’s been cut out and then put back together.
We asked her if all four works are figures.
“I think they could be seen as figures, yeah,” she said. “I think they definitely could be seen as part of a landscape. My original idea for these and especially Whoa Nelly which is the sculpture that’s right inside the gallery. I was flying in a tiny plane over islands, a tiny, tiny little plane, and I loved that perspective of looking down and seeing these kinds of outlines of island shapes, and I thought about what if there were a giant sculpture piece I could make that fit into that landscape, but that was made by a human. So I do consider some of the hourglass shape that could be definitely related to the human body, for sure.”
We asked her to talk about Mama Bear, Baby Bear, and how it connects to the sculpture.
“That was sort of an organic shape that repeats in a lot of this body of work,” she said. “It also was sort of representing in my mind the reproductive system of the Mama Bear relating to the relationship of the mother and the child as animals and also humans as well, maybe using an animal to represent the human form. And then definitely this first piece here, Measurements of Time, Tools of Hunger, is, yeah, I definitely see that as a figure with sort of an emptiness in the center.”
We asked Casey to tell us what is on Baby Bear’s face?
“That’s interesting,” she said. “With that piece, the way it’s hung now, it’s as if Mama Bear is protecting Baby Bear, but if it’s flipped the other way, if they’re flipped around, it could be that the Mama Bear is attacking the Baby Bear. So there’s definitely a story and a relationship going there. We’re not sure if it’s fear or if it’s nurturing, protecting. So it’s sort of open in that interpretation.”
Casey talked a little bit about her source material.
“Well, as I mentioned, the sculptures really began from being in the tiny plane and looking at the landscape from above, and the shapes really came from each other,” she said. “I was trying to think if there was a word for that, which maybe you know. A word for if something that is made from something else, it comes from something else.
“So each one kind of taught me about what the next one would be which is how all of my art work is,” she said. “I make one piece and I wouldn’t be able to make the next piece if I hadn’t made that piece. I’m constantly learning from the things I’m making. So yeah, guess that’s definitely where it started and then I was kind of seduced by the cardboard material and that’s what led to the inlaid piece, Mama Bear, Baby Bear, and other pieces I made in this body with the idea of drawing with a knife. I kind of liked that immediacy and that clunkiness that can come from that. Sort of removing my hand a bit so its not like perfectly made or drawn.”