Our town is very pretty
We have a pretty little square
We have a woman for a mayor
Our policy is firm but fair
Now that God is in the house
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
James Casebere was born in Michigan in 1953. After studying at Michigan State University and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, he went on to graduate with an MFA from Cal Arts in 1979.
Casebere is regarded as a pioneering figure and has long been at the forefront of artists working with constructed photography.
Casebere’s practice has been based on the construction, and at times implied destruction, of elaborate models sourced from symbolic architectural sites. These sites become the basis for a constructed reality, one that imports art historical and cinematic references, overlaying the image with a web of social and psychological implications. His early models were fundamental in their construction, their handmade culture evident and intrinsic to their symbolic narratives. Over the thirty years of his practice though he has made models of astounding complexity.
Casebere uses these models to invite the viewer into his constructed world and into an atmosphere that is haunting in its strangeness and enveloping in its familiarity
In his most recent work Casebere returns to the American mythology that his work explored initially. The suburban environment?is remade in an apparently prosaic manner – houses clustered around a comfortable rolling landscape, the occasional windows warmed by interior lights – evidence or traces of habitation perhaps. But like all of Casebere’s environments there is a strong sense that the inhabitants have been evacuated. And whilst not exactly post-apocalyptic, the quality of aloneness that the viewer experiences in these apparently abandoned sites is profound. Like Nick Cave’s gothic vision in God is in the House, we know that despite the “split wood” and “stoked fires” and “kittens in the trees” that there is a deeper and considerably darker fear pervading the suburban dream.
Two photographs from his recent series, Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY), were featured in the 2010 Whitney Biennial. In May of 2013, The New York Times Magazine commissioned Casebere to create a new work for their cover.
Casebere has been the recipient of numerous fellowships, including three from the National Endowment for the Arts, three from the New York Foundation for the Arts and one from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His work is collected by museums worldwide, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; the Los Angeles County Museum; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, among many others.