The kitchen was a central gathering place for the Castle family. In the morning, James Castle was often the first one up. He regularly spread the newspaper on the table, scanning images and text for inspiration; the comics were a favorite section,Show More often eliciting audible laughs from Castle. Then he delivered the newspaper to his brother-in-law before starting to collect materials for the day. In the evening, Castle typically took a break from his work to eat dinner with the family. His niece Gerry described one of his favorite treats, “He loved his meals. In the evening he would have a glass of bread and milk that he would saturate with sugar. He and my dad would have that every evening. They called it graveyard stew.”
Cranking the milk separator was a favorite chore of Castle’s. While his family did not hold Castle responsible for daily chores, there were a few he insisted on doing. When operating the separator, he joyfully splashed milk, often onto anyone Show Morestanding nearby. Washing dishes was another beloved chore. He would fill the sink with soapy water, submerge each dish, and then slap them with a rag until they were clean.
The large cabinet in the corner of the room is a familiar one, as it makes repeat appearances in numerous drawings. The two smaller figures and the figure at the right often appear in Castle’s drawings as well. The coats carefully laid outShow More on the floor seem to affirm Castle’s understanding of perspective.
Castle’s art practice was intensely private. Despite his need for solitude, however, the children of the family tried to catch a glimpse of the artist at work. Castle’s great-nephew Pat Garrow tells a story about sometimes shimmying onto Show Morethe hitch of Castle’s trailer so he could spy on him through a window. If he shifted a tired leg during such a stakeout, Castle would feel the vibration and run out of the mobile home in search of his sister Peggy so she could administer a reprimand.
The small string at the top of this drawing is an important feature of this Christmas-themed piece. Castle often displayed his artwork in the family home as well as in abandoned outbuildings around the property, which he transformed intoShow More makeshift galleries. The selection of art wouldn’t rotate until Castle brought a new piece to his sister Peggy and decided which one it should replace. His “galleries” in the outbuildings were more private. There he hung drawings and arranged constructions and books against a wall or on shelves.
Castle with great niece and nephew
Despite his limited ability to communicate, Castle was an integral and valued member of the family. He seemed to enjoy spending time with everyone and found ways to interact, sometimes through his art. His great-niece Cathy Wade Morris recallsShow More the artist’s attention to body language. She said that he, “wanted to look you right square in the eye, and he would notice everything about . . . how you were acting toward him.” She also recounted how expressive Castle was with his emotions. “He showed his feelings very flamboyantly,” she said. “There were many times when pets—he loved the chickens—when something happened to them and he was very tearful, and he would also cry with laughter. He had a beautiful laugh, just peals of laughter.”