Completed in 2022 amid the artist’s relocation to rural New York State, a new body of work by Jordan Casteel at Casey Kaplan Gallery invests in the reciprocity between painter and subject through a renewed approach to community engagement and an increasingly poignant vantage point of self-reflection.
The sensory influence of a landscape has the capacity to connect or divide us, to inform our movements through space and the manners in which we relate to our surroundings, and to one another. Casteel sources her subject matter from her own photographs of the people of color who share and shape an environment, directly informing her own accessibility to the collective experience.
In a departure from the comforts of an inbuilt community, as portrayed in previous works ranging from the sidewalks of Harlem to the classroom at Rutgers University-Newark, the transition to a more secluded, sylvan landscape prompted a period of inner-contemplation that necessitated a new approach. Casteel took to social media to initiate an online discourse to connect with and act as a connector for people of color who resided in the area. The resulting forum encouraged discussion and mutual engagement; in turn, introducing the artist to Morgan, Damani and Shola, and Marisa, Isabel and Sage, who would later become the subjects of her paintings.
Morgan sits within a scene shaped by a gestural outline of light. The sun shines through the leaves of trees set behind Casteel’s camera, casting a shadow of the lush natural surroundings like reflections in water. The sitter’s silhouette against the backdrop of her home emphasizes the subject’s physical occupation of space while suggesting an inherent duality that exists within each composition—the subject’s personhood overlapped with the artist’s interpretation through her own sense of self, as seen through the shadow of a secondary figure.
Inhabiting her new setting, engulfed in the natural ebb and flow of the seasons, Casteel contemplates the parallels that exist within the natural world and human nature—ever-evolving, always in motion. For the artist, the silent yet unwavering transition from winter to spring in Magnolia signifies an intuitive appreciation for our ability to grow, as one and en masse. Still-life compositions Daffodil and Field Balm serve as self-portraits, referencing the bounty of the land Casteel gardens and the daily uniform that is inseparable from that process.
Arguably her most personal work to date, Woven portrays an intimate moment captured between Casteel and her partner, David. A private exchange is personified in the subtle grasp of two hands, a silent gesture of affection and encouragement. Unique to her practice, Casteel assumes the role of subject to her own voyeuristic observations.