Sunday, June 9, 2019

"Returning the Gaze" -- In good hands with Jordan Casteel

Art, more art.

That's been a bit of a theme in my dailiness lately, as I focus on living more deliberately and artfully in my choices of how and where I spend my time. Denver is an engaging place now for fans of the arts, and by checking in with The Know and following the work of Ray Rinaldi, I've been following the newest art exhibits. That's how I discovered the work of Jordan Casteel, a Denver-born portrait artist who was featured earlier this year in her first solo museum exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Casteel's work is captivating, and I was moved to make a written attempt at art review. While I was unable to find an established publisher for my thoughts, I've posted the entire piece at Here's a small section:

Every painting is a storybook of time and place, and the museum exhibit offers a brief five-minute video interview with Casteel in which she offers insight and commentary on her inspiration and techniques. When she first moved to the city, she subconsciously fell into “the natural New York thing,” looking down or at her phone and avoiding eye contact. Then she realized and acknowledged she was “doing disservice to myself and the experience of being out in Harlem,” and she began an earnest effort to notice people. Jordan truly sees people, and it’s a great homage to have Ralph Ellison’s words adorning the wall -- from Invisible Man: “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” Casteel’s exhibit does not allow such refusal, as her portraits and scenes welcome and even demand attention with her rich colors and bold brushstrokes that create a strong impression of lives worthy of our attention. From the first step inside the show, viewers are drawn warmly into scenes of Harlem, such as in Bayum, a neighborhood Ethiopian restaurant visited by Casteel. Getting in close on the painting, it’s almost possible to inhabit the scene, smell the spices, hear the clink of dishes, and even feel compelled to request a table and menus. Up close, you can also experience and appreciate the richness of Casteel’s complex style of layers, lines, and textures that bring life to her subjects.

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