A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed

A Conversation with Wendell Castle, the Father of the Furniture Art Movement

August 11, 2013

http://www.wendellcastle.com

Wendell Castle is an American master of furniture art. He has won every award. He has achieved every success any artist can dream of in the process of becoming an icon and a leading figure in his craft. Some of his achievements, amongst many, include art degrees from several universities, numerous awards in arts, and having his work on exhibit in the most prestigious museums in the country. I have no intention here to write a review of Wendell Castle’s magnificent art, but I want to give all my respect to what he has achieved and to summarize it for us all.

There is something about Wendell Castle that fascinates me. Maybe it is the fact that I completely understand his strength, his brilliance, his resilience, and his constant persistence to keep himself current, new, and, above all, absolutely passionate about his art. So many other artists on their journey, somewhere along the way, run out of breath, run out of supply of magic that they once possessed, and get stuck and just imitate and repeat themselves in their creativity.

Its true that Most artists have a love affair with their art. Some of them are loved back by their lover – their art – some are rejected, just like in a true love affair. they are all on a journey to search for nirvana of art, but on their way some get lost,  some fall apart, some simply give up and some are even destroyed, only a few make it to attain the art enlightenment. wendell Castle walked on this path, did not get lost, did not get destroyed, did not give up, did not fall behind, always strong and anchored going forward with technology, tolerating and surviving change and above all he never ran out of his supply of creative magic.

Going back to centuries ago, pieces of furniture were not considered art. Furniture was a functional means, especially amongst the aristocrats, to show wealth and status. Wendell Castle was one of the pioneers to bring style, form, and function together, using natural forms we find in nature. In designing his furniture and sculptures, he obeyed the same rules by which nature is designed. His designs are direct and powerful. Castle’s mind is endlessly free, imaginative, and without borders while creating his furniture and sculptures. He uses his carving tools like weapons to kill every dragon of limitation, repetition, doubt, and fear on his way toward creativity. As he climbed up to the summit of success as an artist and became the true winner in the finish line of the art of furniture, he deservingly became the father of the art furniture. Castle is indeed a fascinating artist.

I had a chance to talk to Wendell Castle – to reach, discover, and reveal the more intimate and personal side of him as an artist. Here he is in a completely different light. Let us meet Wendell Castle in this question and answer exchange.

1. What would you be doing if you were not designing furniture?
I cannot imagine doing anything else; any other activity would be a distant second, but if I had to name something, it would be restoring classic cars.
2. Is the process of creating a piece of furniture emotional for you? How does it feel to work with your hands?
I don’t think of it as emotional, but I am definitely very involved and it brings me great pleasure.  I occasionally catch myself actually dancing in the studio.

As for working with my hands, it’s all I do.  I draw with my hand (right), I cut, glue, carve, shape, etc., all with my hands, as there is no other way.

3. What made you choose making furniture over creating sculpture?
I don’t exactly know the answer to that question.  However, I do know that from the very beginning I believed that a certain type of furniture could be a form of art, and that I could be the first to do it.
4. What is your guilty pleasure?
I guess that would be playing tennis or driving around in a classic car on a beautiful day, or playing guitar.
5. What is your idea of happiness? Has it always been the same? Could your art alone bring you happiness?
I think there is a lot more to happiness than my art.  There must be some sort of balance between family, friends and work.
6. If you were to be reincarnated, would you like to come back as man, animal/bird, or a plant? Would you want to be an artist again?
If I were reincarnated I would like to come back as an artist, albeit one who could plan the piano.
7. What is your best virtue? What quality do you most admire in a man?
I suppose that would be my persistance in pursuing my dream of making my furniture a true form of art.  I most admire in others honesty, directness, a sense of humor, and the ability to see the world as it really is.
8. Who is your favorite character, in real life and fictional?
Perhaps Jacques Tati, he was most certainly a character.
9. Who is your favorite music composer?
I have several:  Mozart, John Field, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Philip Glass.
10. Who is your favorite artist? By whom have you been influenced most?
Brancusi and Brancusi.
11. Who is your favorite writer?
It’s hard for me to name a favorite.  Several would be:  Laura Hillenbrand, Stephen Ambrose, Malcolm Gladwell, Annie Proulx and Erik Larson.
12. What is your present state of mind? What is next for Wendell Castle?
My present state of mind is probably best described as confused, which I believe is a good thing.  I’m constantly trying to figure everything out, such as, “Where should I go next?”  I know the answer will come…

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