Visual Arts

Casebeer's "The Sentence Camera" Explores Human Dialogue, Snapshots, and Sharpie Markers at Tilt Gallery

For the past five years, Casebeer has been taking notes.

The Phoenix artist (who goes by her last name only) went to school for creative writing and says she started painting and collaging when she had a bad case of writer's block. But for the past few years, the words have started to come back.

See also: - Casebeer in Jackalope Ranch's 100 Creatives - Casebeer's "Answers appear at the end of the book." Opens at Jones on Friday

She calls her process "The Sentence Camera," which has been a five-year project/habit of writing down bits of overheard dialogue on her arm in Sharpie marker.

"It began at a party in an art studio my friend and I had painted into a life-size, vintage, Fisher-Price house," she writes. "Everyone there was wearing helmets. It was another curious landscape in life, and I had decided to shut up for once and write down selected sentences overheard from the gathering. My idea was to take these "snapshots" of the language of that night."

She says people seemed to get nervous when she wrote down what they were saying in a notebook, and that for whatever reason, writing words down on her arms became less threatening. (And, yes, though she's run the idea by Sharpie, the company doesn't recommend writing on your arm for five years.)

Last summer, Casebeer talked to fellow artists Melanie and Michelle Craven, who own Tilt Gallery, a photography-focused space in Scottsdale, about her project. The Cravens were interested and offered her a solo exhibition. Though putting together that much work is something she hadn't done in a few years, Casebeer says, this exhibition came together in one of the most natural and cohesive ways.

Casebeer, in addition to writing sentences on her arm, would transcribe those sentences in a notebook and would often photograph her arms -- not thinking about a long-term art project, she says, but more as a practice in capturing her interactions with people and her experiences with friends.

The result is a massive installation of words Casebeer has taken from her Sentence Camera and scrawled on paper that covers the gallery's walls, as well as text-based paintings, and photographs she took along the way.

What's most interesting, she notes, is how the words interact. The sentences were compiled in random order, from countless sources who are friends and strangers -- but the words all seem to fit together.

"Casebeer clearly expresses her passion for the meaningful coincidence of unrelated phrases," write the Cravens. "This is evident as she remarkably weaves together personal dialog and documentary photography ... As these groups of words begin to layer on her skin then the otherwise unrelated phrases become meaningful in relationship to one another."

The opening of "The Sentence Camera" is 7 to 9 p.m. today at Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale and will be on view through April 30. For more info, check out the Tilt Gallery website.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton