I find this fascinating. James Castle was born September 25, 1899, in the small mountain town of Garden Valley, Idaho to Francis J. Castle and Mary Nora Scanlon. Profoundly deaf from birth and did not attend school until he was ten years old, when he was enrolled at the Gooding School for the Deaf and Blind in southeastern Idaho.
At a very early age Castle began drawing and making things with found materials. Throughout Castle’s lifetime, nearly everything that crossed his path inspired or influenced him. His daily ritual included checking all the trash containers in the home and throughout the immediate neighborhood.
Depending entirely on his ingenuity, Castle fashioned materials such as sticks, apricot pits and broken fountain-pen nibs into tools he could use to create. He discovered he could scrape soot from the wood-burning stove and spit into the powdery substance to mix a black ink suited for his diverse imagery. He often derived color by squeezing pigment from saturated crepe paper. Family members gave him store-bought art materials such as oil sticks and watercolors, and he incorporated these new materials into his own self-made concoctions to produce the many subtle textures and colors found in his work.
On paper scraps, he captured even the details of doorknobs, windowsills, washbasins and framed portraits of ancestors. Over the years, he tucked batches of his drawings into crannies around the house and the outbuildings.
In the 1950s, Castle’s nephew, Bob Beach, came home on a break from the Museum Art School in Portland, Oregon. Beach suggested to family members that Castle’s drawings, handmade books and constructions could be called “art.” Beach was allowed to take some of his uncle’s drawings back to the Portland art school to show his professors. This introduction launched the beginning of Castle’s recognition as an artist in regional museums and art galleries.
Throughout history, how many other James Castles have come and gone without ever having been "discovered"?
To read more and find links to his archives click here.