A Studio Visit with Angela Casserly
Angela Casserly covers old clocks with black and white toys and embellishes her own hand-made furniture with plastic insects. From a distance, the objects have the look of classical sculpture, but if you get up close, nostalgia takes hold. Her series of clocks is entitled Time Standing Still. The clocks no longer tell time, they now tell stories…
Casserly recently began working with lamps, and she has a “mountain of plastic toys”. Her Creatures of Conflict lamps examine the ways in which humans co-exist with animals and the planet. (Spoiler alert: It’s not always harmonious.) When I found out that Casserly, who is originally from Ireland and now lives in San Francisco, gets inspiration from the films of Alfred Hitchcock and Jan Švankmajer, I arranged for a studio visit.
JB: San Francisco wasn’t supposed to be your permanent residence, but once you got here, you never left. There’s certainly something about SF that spoils people for other cities. What are those things in your opinion?
Angela Casserly: I’ve lived abroad before, but I’ve never felt as fully at home in any city as I do in San Francisco. There are so many inspiring, creative and driven people here. I feel very lucky to be immersed in a city that’s so rich in art, culture and beauty. We’ve got amazing museums and galleries; it’s amazing! Everything we need is around us: city life and nature all within walking distance. Life here never gets old, stale or boring.
JB: Agreed. Ireland in pop culture often sounds like a pretty aggressive place, what with things like “blooding”and “hurling“. What was it like growing up outside of Dublin?
AC: Growing up in Co Westmeath, in the Midlands of Ireland was great. I think that if Ireland comes across as aggressive in popular culture, it’s not a fair indication of the reality. The general lifestyle in Ireland is very relaxed. Irish people are very laid back and people take their time and relish in the small things in life: a pint of guinness with friends, enjoying being a part of the community, knowing everyone else’s business… It’s very colloquial.
When did you make your first furniture sculpture using toys? Why toys?
I wanted to do something different from the norm, something new and with a gothic architectural look to it. My husband and I had some army figurines and plastic toys hanging around our apartment so I used them. I worked with children for many years, and I would often end up with crazy little toys with broken parts and missing limbs covered in grime, sand and food…In my mid 20s I was surrounded by toys. They were a part of my everyday life as a nanny. Nannying allowed me to travel through Europe at a very young age, and I was inspired by a lot of the children with whom I worked. I decided I could incorporate toys into my art, using discarded objects I’d find in boxes on the street, at garage sales for cheap/sometimes free.
Do you collect things?
I collect toys and random objects for my art, but nothing specific. I have mountains and mountains of different plastic toys.
I can see that! What do you like about using clocks as a “canvas”?
I like that clocks are three-dimensional. I like what clocks stand for and how important and relevant they are in our lives. I tend to work only with broken clocks. Not only are they easier to come across, but I often find broken clocks have a nostalgic sense, which works well with my art.
How do you spend YOUR time when you’re not involved in making art?
These days, I make art constantly…I take one day off a week and go out in the evenings. I travel as much as possible and try to stay fit. I watch movies (lots of documentaries) and go out to music and art shows.
If you could really make “time stand still,” what would you do with that extra window?
That would be amazing! I would take a year off, travel all of Europe and Asia and live in South America…I’d live a chill and tranquil life near the ocean, and I would work on my art. I would spend a couple winter months living in a little cottage off the coast of Galway at home in Ireland, preferably next door to a great artist or Daniel Day Lewis! (laughs)
Have you ever considered making an art multiple? Maybe casting in resin?
I’ve tried, but it’s incredibly tedious work and also expensive.
OK, we can talk more about resin later. Who and what are your artistic inspirations?
My husband, illustrator Andrei Bouzikov, is someone who inspires me daily. I’m in love with Scott Greenwalt‘s art and also Jeremy Hush. Recently, I was home in Ireland for a couple weeks and just walking around the country side, breathing the fresh air and being home was very inspiring. On the same trip, I went to Berlin for 5 days and rode a bike around the city. The history and architecture were amazing. My husband and I are planning to spend 2 months in Berlin working on art this summer.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my series of furniture. Once I have completed all the pieces and props, I plan to photograph them in a post-apocalyptic setting. I hope to have about nine different photographs in all, each one capturing a unique and dramatic story. This book of photography is a huge undertaking, but I am very passionate about it. It’s going to be incredibly time consuming, as I will make each prop and conceptual furniture piece from scratch. I also hope to show my post apocalyptic photography work opposite the actual installation. Sometime in the near future, I visualize my installation in the right gallery; an all-white setting, a very futuristic space… I think it will be absolutely breathtaking!
What’s coming up next?
Some of my work will be featured in a new Bay Area-based magazine called Sex + Design, and I’m doing an installation for the magazine release party. The event will be held at Public Works at 161 Erie Street in San Francisco on Tuesday, February 14th. It’s free before 11.30PM, and I’m looking forward to seeing the turnout!
Keep tabs on Angela Casserly at her website, and get in touch with her @ angelacasserlyart [at] gmail [dot] com!
This was a wonderful article about Angela Casserly and her art. I’m a fan of her art and am invested in the unique beauty and important messages that she conveys.