Great and Mighty Artist of the Day:
Born Garden Valley, Idaho, 1899; died Boise, Idaho, 1977
James Castle worked at his art from the time he was a small child until the last day of his life. He was born completely deaf, and despite five years at the Idaho State School for the Deaf and the Blind, he did not acquire the tools of language such as lip-reading, finger spelling, or writing, though he may have learned other things more to his liking, in particular the allure of words and the making of books. Without his handicap, he would have had to join his brothers and sisters in working the small subsistence farms on which his family lived. Instead he was free to devote all his time to art. Castle created his art from the detritus of everyday life; things like discarded paper or cardboard, stovepipe soot mixed with spit and water, and string. Only when he was in his fifties was his work noticed regionally, and the first national attention came twenty years after his death.
See his work in Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, open now through June 9 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art!