Where We Are

Solo en Inglès

Hear directly from artists and curators on selected works from Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960.

James Castle, Drawings

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David Breslin: The group of work here is by an artist named James Castle. They are very different types of work that one sees here—from depictions of interiors to landscape, constructions, to books that Castle fabricated. 

Narrator: David Breslin is the DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the collection. 

David Breslin: Castle was born in rural Idaho, and later lived in Boise, Idaho. He was drawing from a very early age, and the way that he drew was completely of his own creation. Instead of using purchased materials, he came up with his own form of medium which combined soot from the furnace with spit that he would then apply to found paper. 

Castle was born Deaf and his access to the world through language was limited, but his visual access to the world was almost infinite, as you will see in these drawings. The idea that what is closest to hand could be the subject for one’s art, that the familiar can also be the most mysterious when translated into one’s art form, and the idea that—really one of the foundational ideas for making art is to become more aware of the things that are part of one’s everyday life—are really at work in Castle’s drawings.

Sketch of cabin-like interior

David Breslin: The group of work here is by an artist named James Castle. They are very different types of work that one sees here—from depictions of interiors to landscape, constructions, to books that Castle fabricated. 

Narrator: David Breslin is the DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the collection. 

David Breslin: Castle was born in rural Idaho, and later lived in Boise, Idaho. He was drawing from a very early age, and the way that he drew was completely of his own creation. Instead of using purchased materials, he came up with his own form of medium which combined soot from the furnace with spit that he would then apply to found paper. 

Castle was born Deaf and his access to the world through language was limited, but his visual access to the world was almost infinite, as you will see in these drawings. The idea that what is closest to hand could be the subject for one’s art, that the familiar can also be the most mysterious when translated into one’s art form, and the idea that—really one of the foundational ideas for making art is to become more aware of the things that are part of one’s everyday life—are really at work in Castle’s drawings.


James Castle, Interior with Stove and Wood Box, c. 1931-1977. Stick-applied soot and spit on found paper, sheet (Irregular): 7 × 10 1/2in. (17.8 × 26.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of an anonymous donor 2001.35 © James Castle Collection and Archive / Boise, Idaho