Anderson Ranch master potter unveils retrospective exhibit
Special to The Aspen Times
Much like one turns around while hiking, taking in a reverse view so as not to get lost, Doug Casebeer is glancing over his shoulder to get a better sense of his trail.
“As people, we kind of have a sense of where we’re going, but we rarely turn around and look at where we’ve been,” said Casebeer, master potter and program director of Ceramics and Sculpture at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass. Now Casebeer has decided to start looking back.
On June 15 in the Anderson Ranch Gallery, Casebeer unveiled a 20-year retrospective of his work. The show consists of a selective assemblage of pottery and sculpture from work he has produced since his arrival on the ranch in 1984. (About 80 percent of the pieces are on loan from private collections.)
The work ranges from tree-like candlesticks, wood-ash glazed vases, wind-swept platters and oversized flower pots to aluminum sculptures of grain elevators storing inland narratives, and wood block prints folded like origami into houses.
Perhaps fittingly for such an all-inclusive show, the first piece one sees when entering the retrospective is a time-based sculpture titled “All Together” ” a Plexiglas house filled with the metal scraps and trimmings from the last five years of Casebeer’s work.
“Everything that I’ve cut and clipped up while making (my other sculptures) is in there. That’s five years right there,” Casebeer said. “Relicly it’s a composite of history of a genre of work … It’s about homes, it’s about vessels … it’s about everything that has to come together to fill a home creatively.”
Similar themes of homes and vessels appear throughout much of Casebeer’s work. And though his lifework has taken him to such disparate places as Jamaica, Nepal and Japan, there is one home that seems eternally present in most everything shaped by his hands: Kansas.
Casebeer grew up smack in the middle of America, in Salida, Kan., where a two-block bicycle ride in almost any direction took him into the wheat fields. That perspective of landscape is evident in his recently crafted sculptures of grain elevators and barns on flat slabs of clay.
“What’s interesting about these pieces is they all have bases,” Casebeer said. “I grew up in the middle of the country. Flat land, dirt, no water, no ocean, and so to some degree I’m rooted on that mass, that plain.
“I was always intrigued by these buildings and barns that were just kind of out there, kind of puncturing the landscape,” he added later. “(When you drive through Kansas) It was almost like one beacon to the next beacon.”
As Casebeer shared these thoughts, one particular piece stood out: a grain elevator precariously teetering upon a boat. “Then along comes this piece,” he said, smiling. “And the title of the piece is ‘Looking for Land.’
“I made that here in Colorado. … My wife, Sue, and I had been on the ranch for 16 years, and it was either we were moving from the valley or moving away or doing something unless we found land, unless we found a home.
“Well the same fall that I made that piece we bought a house. It’s almost like if I had not made the piece, we may still have been looking for land.”
Fortunately for the community of Anderson Ranch and the valley, that new home was found and Casebeer is still here to share the culmination of the last two decades of his work. However, Casebeer remains modest.
“I mean, after you’ve been doing it for about 20 to 35 years, you know, so what, what’s next?
“And I think the ‘what’s next’ is you begin to look even further at your work and the subtleties within it and how to make quiet beauty stronger.”
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