The Anti-Aestheticist: Casey VanDyke

Never in my life have I had an interviewee ask for the camera during a video shoot, but halfway through filming with Casey VanDyke I found myself in front of the camera rather than behind it. 

VanDyke is a visual artist living in Jacksonville Beach. His art transcends period movements as much as it does medium. Focusing on self-identity and introspection, his most recent series, “A Thought In My Head,” combines photographic self-portraits with paint and words from his journal to portray different aspects of his mental space. The series is about to go on view at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in May.

I finally got to sit down with VanDyke and intentionally talk about his work. Here’s what he had to say. 

If you could sit in on any artist’s studio session who would it be?

I would think maybe like Picasso or Basquiat. I would want to see their process. I don’t necessarily know about talking to them about things, but I would want to see how they did it. Kind of just how they threw things together. I think there’s some artists around here that are really cool too that I would also love to see work, like Dustin Harewood. I’ve seen work from him at the Cummer Museum and all around Jacksonville. He does a lot of mixed media work, and that’s what I like to do too, so I’d be curious to see how they make their work. 

I feel like your style is still unique among the artists you mentioned, how would you describe your work?

I make a lot of photographic work that covers different topics, but mostly my mixed media all kind of ends up becoming the same thing. A lot of it right now is based on advertising, marketing and consumerism. Kind of finding self identity. Growing up in a time like this with technology and all these things being pushed in your face all the time, you’re trying to find stuff to identify with, but you have all these companies telling you what you like. You don’t know what you really are into. I think my art right now is trying to express that by trying to get people to question their own identities within “The Ad Space.” It’s all tied into consumerism and reappropriating things to communicate my message instead of their message.

What periodic art movement would you say your work fits into best?  

I try to say it’s surrealism or Dadaism or I guess neo-Dada because we’re past that. Postmodernism might be another term that you could use. I had some actual art critics reviewing my work call it “Anti-Aesthetic art.” I didn’t know what that really meant, but ever since then I’ve kinda reframed the idea and gone into it a little more deeply. 

What kinds of artists influence your work?

I’m heavily inspired by Ed Templeton, Robert Rauschenberg, Picasso and Robert Frank, who was a photographer first and then made a lot of mixed media stuff before moving on to filmmaking at the end of his career. Just people who have utilized a lot of different mediums of art to express themselves. 

How did you develop your style?

It wasn’t intentional to be making the stuff that I’m making now. It kind of just happened. I had experience developing photos in the darkroom and working with film, but I kind of got a bad taste in my mouth for it from teachers who didn’t like me because I was too talkative, or I didn’t follow rules. They would give me detention all the time. I found my love for photography again when I went on a surf trip with my friend back home when I was like 17. I brought my film camera with me just to take photos and when I got my film back from the lab I was like, wow, I forgot how much I love doing this. I had a really good friend who told me I should take my ideas and put them in a sketchbook and that kind of became one thing that I would do. Then I started trying to paint. I started to try to do other things with photography and work in different mediums and next thing you know all my mediums were tied together.

Do you take a similar approach toward your mediums when you work with them individually? 

I think I do take my style over all the mediums. It’s one of those things where I have experience in them separately. But I am in a place where I feel like I need to try to combine them in order to, like, just say that I’m an artist. I’m a visual artist. I don’t want to necessarily be classified as just a photographer or just a painter or just someone who skateboards or just someone who surfs. I want to be known as someone who just does all those things.

What are the benefits of having a home studio?

I can do it whenever I want. I’m not tied to having to go in and out of somewhere else. If my roommates are up or something, they don’t care. I can just turn on some music and go into myself. I do a lot of my art late at night around 2 to 7 a.m. most of the time because of things I have to do during the day for school. I’m making my other art independently. Most of my mixed media work and painting is all for myself.

What does the future have in store for you?

Right now, I plan on going to grad school if I can swing it, you know, financially and if I can even get in. Otherwise, I’m just going to continue to make art. I’m gonna focus on creating photographic series, paint series and mixed media series that are under a conceptual idea as a whole. 

About Vincent Dalessio

Vincent Dalessio is Folio Weekly’s Head Photographer and Writer. Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, he takes pride in resetting his roots in Duval County. Active in the skateboarding, surfing, rock climbing and outdoor recreation communities, he takes what he’s learned in his personal life and applies it to current issues facing these groups. His writing focuses on the environment, socio-demographic issues, biopics on community figureheads and stories on the communities he spends the most time in.