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Dreaming of the Real: Observing Artist Scott Marvel Cassidy

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Scott Marvel Cassidy, "Backyard Landscape," 2015. Oil on canvas.

In Scott Marvel Cassidy's paintings, drawings and sculpture, it's often times impossible to separate reality from a dreamlike state, or to differentiate the manufacture of a domesticity with the actual domestic life. Focused on intersecting themes of memory, the immediate physical environment, and the quandaries of referring to painting as purely "representational," Cassidy's painting, drawing and sculpture edge into territories of the uncanny and, at times, wormhole into the past.

When we met for a studio visit, Cassidy was in the middle of painting a painting of a bathroom medicine cabinet. In order to do this, he created a replica of his actual bathroom medicine cabinet at the home he shares with his wife, the comedian Maria Bamford, who will soon have her own Netflix TV show. The objects in their cabinet are believable, tangible and mundane: a half-empty bottle of baby oil, a glass with a razor and small scissors inside, a glass bottle of eye drops for their dog, Bert -- a very old pug who enjoys being held and is blind and deaf yet still retains a keen sense of smell, among other objects. (Their other dog, Blueberry -- "Bloobz" for short -- is a surly yet lovable lady, but her medicines didn't make their way into Cassidy's painting.) Cassidy takes the real, creates a replica of it, and then paints that; in the process, the real becomes fake becomes representation becomes an object in the artist's imagination.

A prop that Scott built in order to make a painting of the bathroom medicine cabinet, and the painting itself. | Photo: Courtesy of Scott Marvel Cassidy.
A prop that Scott built in order to make a painting of the bathroom medicine cabinet, and the painting itself. | Photo: Courtesy of Scott Marvel Cassidy.

Even though this is just a replica of a bathroom, for whatever reason that prop stayed with me. I became intrigued by its removal from its original place -- the bathroom in their home -- and subsequent duplication. Cassidy explained to me that the painting of it would take probably about nine months to complete. In this age of fast response and everything on electronic screens, Cassidy's work is a breath of fresh air, a break from the constant virtual chit-chat. His work refreshingly blends a physical reality and dreamlike state, yet remains very much rooted in the domestic, the landscape of Southern California, and a physical, offline reality.

Los Angeles is his home, but Cassidy is an East Coast kid at heart. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Cassidy received his certificate of completion from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He moved to Los Angeles in 1998 to work on the Henry Darger film In the Realm of the Unreal (2004) directed by Jessica Yu who he met at the MacDowell Colony Residency. Things took off in L.A. for Cassidy, and so he stayed, going on to work for artists like Paul McCarthy and Jim Shaw. In his own practice, he cites contemporary figurative painters Jenny Saville and Ellen Altfest, American magical realist painter Ivan Albright, and Romantic painter Théodore Géricault.

Scott Marvel Cassidy, "L.A. Landscape," 2013. Oil On Canvas. 4 x 3 1/2 feet.
Scott Marvel Cassidy, "L.A. Landscape," 2013. Oil On Canvas. 4 x 3 1/2 feet.

It makes sense that Cassidy is drawn to these types of realist and figurative artists. In his practice, Cassidy actively works against the ever-trending abstract and minimalist art forms that dominate too many commercial galleries in Los Angeles and New York. But his meditative takes on the world -- both mediated through popular culture and in the immediate physical landscape -- are anything but representations of reality.

Cassidy also jokingly describes himself as a part-time comedian, which is funny (no pun intended) because there is a streak of dark humor and punk influence throughout his visual work. This is most visible in his zine "Mirror Face or Cha Cha House," in which he draws darkly humorous parallels between art world famous artists and musicians while also flexing his fascination for the tiniest of details. For example, in this zine he draws what he calls the "exasperated foot flop," a detail he notices in the work of comic artists Kaz, Robert Crumb, and Philip Gustan.

Cassidy also draws from his own familial history, bringing that into his work. His now-deceased dad appears in the 2006 autobiographical comic book, "The Ephebic Hobbledehoy," in which he recalls stories from childhood and adolescence, drawing character sketches of his dad, an army vet who perhaps didn't get to fulfill his calling because he missed both the Korean and Vietnam wars, and also threw knives as a hobby. Cassidy also admits that he grew up Jehovah's Witness, devoting a short story in the comic book to this. But what does that all mean today? Memory becomes surreal when hindsight isn't 20/20.

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Scott Marvel Cassidy, "Late 90's Vein,&quot 2010. Oil on canvas. 32 1/4 x 37 1/2 inches.
Scott Marvel Cassidy, "Late 90's Vein," 2010. Oil on canvas. 32 1/4 x 37 1/2 inches.   
Scott Marvel Cassidy, "Sonic Cat," 2005. Watercolor and guache on paper. 21 3/4 x 29 inches.
Scott Marvel Cassidy, "Sonic Cat," 2005. Watercolor and guache on paper. 21 3/4 x 29 inches.
Scott Marvel Cassidy, "3 Cats," 2005. Watercolor and collage on paper. 18 x 23 inches.
Scott Marvel Cassidy, "3 Cats," 2005. Watercolor and collage on paper. 18 x 23 inches.   

Scott Marvel Cassidy's work will be included in the following exhibitions: The group exhibition BAD BOYS BAIL BONDS ADOPT A HIGHWAY curated by Amanda Ross-Ho at Team Gallery in New York from June 28 - July 31 2015, and in PAIN TERO FLIGHT, a group exhibition that questions Thomas Kinkade's place in art history, co-curated by Alicia Eler and Theo Downes-Le Guin at Upfor Gallery in Portland, Oregon from January 28 - February 27, 2016, and also featuring Maria Bamford, Ray Anthony Barrett, and Jillian Mayer, and Ralph Pugay.


 

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