James Castle (1899-1977) was born deaf and never learned to speak, read or write, and refused to be taught to communicate in any of the accepted forms of signing or finger spelling (he was kicked out of the School For Deaf and Blind). Instead, he used his art as a way of communicating and making sense of the world. Castle lived with his parents on their southern Idaho farm all his life, as a man he lived in one of the family's barns and slept on the floor. His drawings were made by using stove soot mixed with his own saliva and applied with the tips of sharpened sticks on whatever form of paper he could find ranging from butcher paper, matchbook covers, cardboard, and mail-order catalogs. Castle lived in a world all his own. He experienced his surroundings with a unique and sophisticated sensitivity, never learning to read or write, words and letters were just abstract forms and shapes, as the instinctual urge to communicate and record the human experience was done so through his own visual language. Thought to be autistic, there is a blurred distinction in Castle's work between the inanimate and the animate, he treated objects like chairs, doorways and beds the same he did humans.
Castle is one of my favorite artists and there are days when I wish I could have lived in his world.