Friday, March 1, 2013

Digging Deep: Casey Pankey

Casey Pankey, Stillwater
Casey Pankey, Earth's Child at Play, Wood, Earth, found objects, 64x29x16"
What was your concept and inspiration for these pieces?
The body of work I am currently focusing on is an autobiographical exploration of childhood memories. I use a variety or materials including wood, steel, plaster, and found objects to describe an emotional memory or activity. During my childhood, these activities or moments may have seemed whimsical, yet as an adult, I cannot avoid the bittersweet reaction I have when creating each piece.

Please explain the technique and process you used to create your Momentum work.
"Earth's Child at Play" was a particularly fun piece to create. I remembered several occasions where I would dig large holes in my backyard. One such instance involved my brother and I digging a hole in my grandmother's back yard. It was so large that he could stand in it and barely get back out. I thought "Why do kids do that? Why did we do that?" I took my two younger sisters outside and asked them to dig a hole while I photographed them. They were hesitant at first, but by the end, they were both happily covered in mud. I used these photographs for a series that I printed and wrote my memories of my own experience on. That piece is called "Digging.Because."

This didn't satisfy my question, though. So, I began a sculptural piece. Looking at the photographs, I noticed the lines that were created in the dirt by digging fingers. My first idea was that the sculpture needed to show this action and a sense of these lines. I wanted the piece to be somewhat decontexualized, therefore I put it on the wall (also partly because I remembered thinking back to my brother's head poking out of the hole which made me laugh). 
Casey Pankey, Earth's Child at Play (detail), Wood, Earth, found objects, 64x29x16"
I had a rough sketch of the basic end result, but I did not use a template. I began cutting rough shapes that I felt represented the interior of the hole. I decreased them in size until I felt it was finished. Then, I placed dirt on top to tie the piece back to the ground and allow for visual balance. Something was missing. It was not personal enough.

When we would dig holes in our own backyard, we would find really strange objects buried. We frequently found golf balls and once we found a shoe. So, I included these items in the center of the piece. They are hidden but if a viewer gets close enough, they can find them between the layers of wood. Finally, to maintain a natural wood grain, and simply to continue experimenting, I used white India ink as paint. I'm not sure I ever reached any level of understanding about why we dug holes, but I greatly enjoyed the exploration.

My favorite thing about this piece is that the moment people understand the story, many smile and tell me about their own memories of digging holes in their backyard as a kid.

Where else can audiences see your artwork?
My work may viewed online at

This artwork will be featured at Momentum OKC, opening March 1 & 2 at the 50 Penn Place in Oklahoma City. View, experience and purchase art by Oklahoma emerging young artists. Learn more at

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