thanks for agreeing to be interviewed!
I'd like to start by asking you about yourself and your activity as an artist. Who is Casi Cline and what does Ephemerality Art represent for her?
Well, I am a human like any other with complex thoughts and emotions, though perhaps a little more anxious than most. If I were an animal, I would be a frightened doe rabbit running from the beast of time, grateful for my safe and glowing burrow with my warm buck inside where I can forget for a time until I have to dip back into the dark. Ok, goofy animal metaphors aside, I am a graphic designer during the day and create art whenever I can. I am married to Steven Cline, my favorite artist. I see myself as darkly enlightened, but have been told I am innocent. Just another aspect of the infinite list of opposites that I am, I suppose.
Ephemerality Art is an external transcript of the ideas and thoughts swarming through my subconscious. I think it is important to experience the subconscious minds of others. It lets you see from other perspectives and helps you get a little closer to that indefinable something at the center. So, Ephemerality Art is my contribution. My tiny little piece of the equation. Even if I don’t get there, maybe I can help someone else. The perfect metaphor would be from the novel Mount Analogue by René Daumal. Each traveler prepares the way for those who come behind.
However complex and intricate, your pieces possess a striking elegance and show a perfect balance among elements as different as harmonically integrated. Diverse entities coexist in a mysterious universe whose depths are unfathomable. Encyclopedic illustrations of pterodactyls soar over arcane messages about unexplained omens. Geometries both of the flesh and of the mind are visited by moths and rifles. Legions of circular shapes and decorative elements reminiscent of the Victorian era meet and interweave to create majestic systems. What are your favourite image sources?
My favorite kinds of materials are old books with interesting patterns or diagrams. These can be scientific textbooks, manuals, medical encyclopedias, etc. I look for books from the time period before photography became the norm and hand drawings were mostly used. I love shapes and lines, which is why old sheet music is also one of my favorite sources. There is something especially magical about searching through a pile of ephemera or a box of books at a yard sale and finding images that resonate with you. I especially love taking the kinds of drawings and diagrams that are solely utilitarian in purpose, such as a machine blueprints and giving them a violent rebirth as art.
When did you begin making collages and drawings with a view to a more or less coherent project?
I started making collages late in 2013. However, to this day, I don’t purposely create a certain style. I go into each piece with no intention. Each piece is a reflection of my thoughts and state of being when I am in the act of creating it. As I go through mental epochs, the pieces evolve. For instance, I have increased my use of color over time, and the types of patterns I draw go through stages. However, my preference for certain materials lends a degree of unintended coherence to my pieces.
To what extent is a collage the result of a predetermined sketch? Is it more a matter of conscious spontaneity or of a well-defined plan?
When I start a piece, I usually have no idea about how I want the finished piece to look. Exceptions would be if I were doing a custom commission with specifications, which is very hard for me considering I don’t usually plan, or if I found a special image while out collecting materials. Normally, I try to keep the flow of work as effortless as possible. I will start by picking my background: old paper, music notes, book pages, or whatever I am feeling like. I make sure to leave a blank area to draw in. Then I will go through my materials and cut out whatever strikes me. Sometimes it is just images I find and sometimes I also find bits of text I like. After I have applied all of the paper pieces, I start to draw. This usually takes me the longest. I don’t usually plan the drawing, either. I have plenty of shapes I like to draw and sometimes I see something new I like and draw my interpretation of it. For instance, I have lately taken to the patterns in insect wings. Once I have a style going, I just keep drawing until I have filled in as much of the blank spot as feels right, usually all of it. I have a hard time leaving empty space.
What were your earliest experiences with art?
As far as my personal art goes, though I did not know it at the time, I have been practicing for my current pieces since I was a child. I kept a journal, which, in addition to containing terrible poetry, was also filled in every margin and available space with small drawings and wild patterns. Even up through college, every notebook I owned, instead of being filled with class notes, was filled, inside and out, with shapes and patterns. I was discovering favorite motifs then, which I still use now. My experience of the art of others was mainly from art books. We didn’t go to museums very often when I was growing up, but we did go to the library every week and check out the maximum allowance. That was back when we still had library cards. I also remember a large set of art books, which my uncle gave to me. I would pore over beautiful and sometimes dark and frightening pictures in the book. It was the terrible pictures that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from. I remember a painting of hell I would go back to again and again, and a picture of a tiger with its claws in a man’s skin. The agony displayed in these images expressed feelings I could neither identify or explain. My uncle was an artist, and I often regret that he died before I could share my art with him.
My husband, Steven Cline, has inspired me through his encouragement and the vast knowledge he has shared with me. I love patterns, and whenever I see something that resonates with me, it finds its way into my drawings. The Surrealists have inspired me, not in a visual way, but in an ideological way. My greatest inspiration is simply the world of books and paper I have always lived in. My art is an expression of my subconscious and the things that fill it.
As a math teacher, do you feel your art and mathematics are in some way connected?
I love math. It is an abstraction of patterns in the world around us. As something I feel a connection with, it finds its way into my art, sometimes subtly and sometimes overtly. I am no longer a math teacher, but the math is still there, influencing me. In addition, I do believe that there is a philosophical place of deep understanding where all arts and sciences become on knowledge. Things are not so separate and sharply delineated as they would seem. I see no disconnect between science and art.
This is how you introduce your first novellette, Chimaera Obscura: in this book "[...]we journey through a mysterious forest to reach the top of a tall mountain, meeting others along the way who are flighty, wise, beautiful, sinister, and cranky. But above all else, Chimaera Obscura is a journey to find what one is." Where did the idea of Chimaera Obscura come from?
Like most of what I do, Chimaera Obscura comes from the place of deep uncertainty, constant questioning, dark anxiety, and hopeful idealism that is my mind. We can never know what is true, and my mind refuses to resolve on an arbitrary choice. Because of this, I am a perfect split of opposite answers in stalemate. Chimaera Obscura is an expression of the inner voice looking for truth. In the end of the story, a solution of sorts is given, but it is just one possibility of infinitely many.
Some of your artworks and poems have appeared on the surrealist journal Peculiar Mormyrid. What is your personal notion of "surrealism"? Why is surrealism important to you, whatever form it takes?
Surrealism has been for me a refuge and a release. Surrealism has helped me brush away the doubts that had kept me from doing art for so long. Art to me now is a distillation of human thought rather than an obscure talent guarded by a select few, and as such exists in every human subconscious waiting to be tapped. In the words of Lautreamont, “poetry should be made by all, not by one.” It has always struck me how vast the universe is when each mind contains an infinity of possibilities. Because of the philosophy of the movement, I have discovered a world in which I can be myself ever more freely. Before I found Surrealism, any odd idea would usually be dismissed or find no hold. I had always been yearning for something, and, while the yearning is still there, I now have a compass with which to search. With a little practice the mind can see many marvelous things in our very ordinary world.
Your recent experiments with sound poetry are particularly fascinating in that they seem to evoke a primordial world where an ancestral and almost magic language was spoken. These lulling albeit slightly unsettling pieces reverberate with semantic units of primal significance which take us back to the dawn of civilization. Are these tracks part of a wider project?
I have no big plans at this point. I am excited to find a new channel for artistic experimentation. But it all started the fateful day that my encyclopedic husband introduced me to Kurt Schwitters! “Rakete rinnzekete!” When I heard sound poetry, of which I was embarrassingly ignorant, I was instantly inspired. I went around for a couple of days just repeating Kurt Schwitters and then started making my own sounds. I have always loved playing with the sounds of words, but now I don’t have to be distracted by the meaning. I had also been listening to industrial, gamelan, and experimental music, so the sound poetry just fell in well with it to me. I find it amazing how much you can do with household items, free audio software, and an affordable microphone. As you can tell, I really am a little excited.
Thanks again for your time!