call 985-630-8674 or email isaacmccaslin@gmail.com for inquiries or for online purchases.

Past Exhibits:

Columbus Art Festival, Columbus, OH. June 11-13th, 2017.

Telfair Art Fair, Savannah, GA. November 11th-13th, 2016.

Provincetown Art Association & Museum, Provincetown, MA. January 15th - February 28th, 2016.

Hudson D. Walker Gallery, Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA. from March 18th-23rd, 2016.

Listen to Orlando Montoya Interview Isaac McCaslin

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Memento Mori"


Photo by Isaac McCaslin, New Mexico 


Photo by Isaac McCaslin, Rio Grand Reservoir in New Mexico
In recent years I’ve gone on two camping excursions in the southwestern region of the country with my family. The paintings I made after getting back to my studio in Georgia were a reflection of the meditations which accompanied my solitary hikes. I found that I was able to use the entire process of painting as a basis to question the value and substance of meaning in the face of death. My mom’s mom and my dad’s dad died this past year and led to the paintings in this group of work. I intend to continue developing this work.  Each painting in the group will lead to the next. My interpretations  below are available although not conclusive because imagery has value beyond its capacity to be translated into words. For the most part, I offer my words because it helps me to focus the momentum of an unraveling creative explosion, into a long-term-sustainable, way of understanding existence. 

Hans Holbein, The Ambassadors, oil on panel, 1533
Commentary: A side view of the painting reveals the skull


Across the History of Art a motif has reoccured, “Memento Mori” or “Remember Death”. An awareness of death is an awareness of the question of meaning e.g.  materialism, value, empathy, and progress etc. In the same way that a skull sparks an awareness of death, apocalyptic or dilapidated structures is a reminder of the death of civilizations. 

Savannah Georgia contemporary Painter
Isaac McCaslin, The Collector of Fine Things, oil on canvas, 40 in. x 60 in. 2014


             So far there are three paintings in this group. In the first painting, The Collector of Fine Things, I suggest the questions:  ‘Who is the collector?’ and ‘What are the fine things’ and  “Why are the things fine?” I spent a summer hitchhiking through California hanging out with the homeless, sleeping in parks, under bridges and in shelters.  These experiences subconsciously set the ground for this painting. Value itself is a priceless psychological possession, which a person of any standing—high or low in the social hierarchy—can project. My grandfather valued the possessions hidden in the cart depicted in this painting for reasons I may never know. However, now that he is dead the items hold value to me only insofar as I project on to them my grandfather’s consciousness. Even if, in the painting, I create a semblance of the value of his memory, the painting is only an impression of my sensation of self; it, too, will fade into dust long after I die. 

Then, why do I paint? My gut response is because creating is an impulsive delight.  I create because my creations are like my children, and they will live on as a memory of my experience after I die. Still, living on through the memory of others seems pointless unless such memory impresses a way of acting in this world which is influenced from the way I acted in this world. This sentiment can only be an Ideology of Sustainment of Will.  I yearn to live on and be influential, most people do.  So, on one hand, I create because I enjoy the act of collecting, synthesizing, and making new things and ideas. On the other hand, I create because I wish to distill an influential memory of my experiences within the artwork. This is the Will to Sustain my Will. In other words, I know I will die and all I can do is leave some impression, a ‘semblance’ of my ability to influence action or to influence meditation after my death.  Of course I  can not impregnate a painting with my conscious free will.  The paintings I intend to make will embody the memory of my collected experiences and such memory can be received by another person who, through interpretation will derive meaning which, if impactful, will affect that persons reference point for taking action in the world. In this way influencing action through creation is as close as one can get to sustain ones influence a little further through time.  Artworks offer meaning and simultaneously meaning is projected onto them. Without sentient beings to understand that an artwork was the creation of another sentient being with Free-will, the artwork becomes a rock in a lonely, and perhaps beautiful landscape. 

Savannah Georgia contemporary Painter
Isaac McCaslin, Insect-like Mutations in a Waiting Room, oil on canvas, 48 in. x 96 in. 2014 


The second painting, Insect-like Mutations in a Waiting Room, is a triptych about the extent to which our impressions in this world, if they have any influence at all, matter. Does the value of my contributions rest in their capacity to aid in some sort of social progress. Is it the case that progress holds value even if I accept by faith and observation the absolute transience of all things? Cycles of creation and destruction are a theme in my work. For me, creation is rooted to a yearning for freedom, intention, and the sustainment of will, this yearning is a reaction to the fear of destruction. 


We break things down to build things back up. The defragmentation of order into chaos is a part of the cycle of creation and destruction. An ideology can be a mechanism of order or chaos—control or destabilization—creation or destruction. An ideology is a set of beliefs, values, and attitudes that underlie and justify either the status quo or movements to change it.  Ideologies use meaning to affect a reference point for taking action in the world.  Regimes of order have and use ideologies just as individuals have and use ideologies. 



Savannah Georgia contemporary Painter
Isaac McCaslin, Spectacularly Dying, oil on canvas, 60 in. x 50 in. 2014



  The inspiration for Spectacularly Dying began with an elaborate burial ceremony organized by my young nieces and nephew for an accidentally killed lizard encountered on a camping trip at the Rio Grand Reservoir in New Mexico. 4 months later I painted this work. In the painting, a snake eating a rodent is a spectacle of death for the kids, thus sparking an impetus of empathic awareness.  The rodent is in the midst of a death squeeze at the moment of acceptance, within the cycle of dying.  This ‘Dying Acceptance’, is where the feeling of freedom shifts from ‘being free to choose’ to ‘being free of choice’.  If I feel anxiety in facing chaos and/or order, a balance between choice and acceptance should be achieved so that I can feel freedom.  ‘self-sustainment at all costs’ should yield to  ‘passing the torch in preparation for death’. The mythological Chronus eating his child echoes the snake eating the rodent. Here, Chronus is a Tyrant, an extreme manifestation of the desire to keep power and order by consuming his child.  As grotesque as it is, this spectacle gives credence to the notion that time creates and destroys. Order will unravel into chaos and chaos will coagulate into new regimes of order.