Jordan Casteel as an art student painted landscapes but her career is now defined by her painting of black men. Casteel’s interest in people comes from her introvert personality, taking the role of an observer in a room. Her consideration of environment, colour, paint and subject take the work further than simply being paintings of black men, as her work often gets described as.
The gaze of Casteel’s subjects is direct, giving the viewer the opportunity of insight into these men’s lives. For Casteel herself, her subjects are often mere acquaintances, therefore by taking her reference photographs of the subjects making eye contact gives her moments of connection that she uses to inspire the direction of each painting. She sees the paintings in her studio as a community she’s created.
Casteel describes her decisions with colour as being either intuitive or logical. She can find a colour that she builds her palette around but mainly her use of bright colours comes from her attraction to colour. In some of her work she has painted these black men with skin colours such as green or blue which is her way of “pushing the dialogue of blackness”. This is inspired by how it is common for black families to have a range of colour in skin tones and Casteel’s work challenges experiences of what black looks like. Casteel’s paintings explore intimacy and the bright colours make her subjects seem supernatural, immortalised through the paintings. The race of her subjects links them together and gives a sense of unity as well as insight to a culture and community. The presentation of the people Casteel chooses to paint allows there to be connection between the viewer and the identity of these men which is important in a difficult political climate where modern racism is perpetuated.
Though Casteel’s work is more politically inclined than the idea of my project I find her work fascinating and really valuable to the theme of identity. Since my practice tends to continuously explore the theme of identity I think Casteel is an artist I should consider when creating work in the future. However, her painterly style reflects the way she creates work from the memory of her experiences with these people which is relevant to how I want to present the photographs of my memories.