Jackson Casady paints illustrious scenes depicting various facets of LA culture. The figures in his works are symbolic of the various dreamers that make their way to Los Angeles. Rather than solely telling the stories of the glamorous and successful, Casady sheds a light on both ends of the emotional spectrum, showing the anxiety, uneasiness, insecurities that plague everyone on their life’s journey. Alongside these feelings, Casady instills a sense of fun and silliness. He is based (where else) in Los Angeles, CA.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and when did art first enter into your life?
I grew up in Los Angeles, where I currently live and work. It was a competitive and creative childhood as one of three triplet boys. We all played baseball, surfed, and studied together. I took on the role of the comedian and entertainer, constantly trying to find a laugh and jockeying for attention, but art and making things always fascinated me. From as early as I can remember, I made coloring books and illustrated my school papers and reports. My parents brought art into my life because they were creative people, my dad a TV producer and screenwriter, my mom an interior designer. They introduced me to different painters, films, and forms of storytelling. Some of our family friends were artists and musicians, so live music and pictures filled the house. We had an Ed Ruscha print hanging in our home which my dad acquired from the artist in 1969. My early exposure to art at home and through museum field trips fed my growing interest in making pictures of my own.
How would you describe your work in three words?
Colorful, satirical, surreal.
Your work presents a juxtaposition of moods – it feels glamorous and lively while at the same time somber and tense. Are these mixed emotions something you are aiming to capture?
That tension is on purpose and there’s definitely a level of anxiety paired with the action in the scenes. It’s a reflection of LA culture in a nut shell. This is a city full of artists, musicians, actors, directors, etc. trying to express themselves and make it big. My work has characters with dreams that they want to keep alive. The paintings are of entertainers and of artists expressing a level of false confidence through their appearances and performances. Despite their perceived coolness, the entertainers I paint still radiate a sense of insecurity about how they’ll be received or judged. They put on a big smile to mask their uneasiness from an audience. They might be loaded on drugs, booze or both, and probably just threw up. The classic tension of comedy and tragedy from Greek theater informs the narratives. The cast of hubristic characters are acting out a distorted reality, exaggerating, and embellishing life. The romanticized and nearly psychedelic narratives address identity, sexuality, media consumption, and materialism. These themes are emblematic of Hollywood’s influence on a culture where everything that glitters isn’t gold.
Your practice is inspired by the entertainment industry. What about this community interests you?
I’ve always loved movies, music, TV, and storytelling – all products of the business. The entertainment industry has many similarities to the art world. Both rely on making pictures, telling tales, and using magic and illusion. Movies trick the eye on film; paintings trick the eye on canvas. Also, growing up in LA, the entertainment community is familiar and omnipresent. In college, I interned at film studios and worked as a production assistant on the Oscars and two American Film Institute tributes. When you’re working on the red carpet, you’re in a different world. I don’t necessarily like it, but it’s fascinating, energizing, and unsettling. The world I paint is imagined, but at the same time, inspired by the eccentric characters and overall absurdity of the industry.
From where do the ideas for your works originate?
The ideas originate from my interests, imagination, influences, and personal experiences. I’m interested in things that are cinematic and ridiculous and often reference iconic images from our culture. Most settings are imagined, but sometimes familiar personal spaces like my house are depicted. Many scenarios are drawn from the unmistakable LA landscape, its warm sunsets and saturated color. Any humor or visual jokes come from my love of comedy, late night TV, and conversations with my dad. The talks with my dad can be silly yet intelligent, random yet thoughtful. As in a TV writers’ room, lots of ideas fly around freely, and some are good. But if it’s outrageous, it’s contagious. Those ideas usually make it into a painting.
Many of your paintings present scenes that feel familiar yet feature elements of the uncanny. How do you maintain a balance of presenting something the viewer can relate to while still adding in distinct oddities?
I think the combination of the familiar and uncanny creates a sense of tension and drama. If the subject matter is comfortable enough to engage with, then the audience can find the clues and secrets within the painting. I don’t think the work should be so mysterious that it loses the audience, but hopefully the oddities can surprise, engage the viewer, and drive the narrative forward.
What art movements most inspire your work?
I got really excited about painting after seeing and studying George Bellows and the Ashcan school of painters like Robert Henri and Edward Hopper. Pop-surrealists like Peter Saul and other outsider artists also interest me. The color used by post-impressionists like Bonnard and Matisse as well as Fauvism is always inspiring.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be doing a show with Penske Projects in the near future.