In the finely detailed world that Amy Casey creates with her acrylic paintings, rows of side-by-side A-frame houses perch on rings of streets crowned with a cluster of telephone poles, their lines reaching out to and connecting the dwellings.
In this practical and ethereal place of her imagination, homes co-exist with commercial structures in a jumble, enveloped by protective, dangling strands. Some buildings, including those with arched windows and brick exteriors, exist in formations such as an inverted stack or pillars swathed in chain-link fencing.
"I like to think about how communities work - from small towns to a world community - how we depend on each other to create civilization, how we try to find safety within a community and how we can sabotage or save ourselves with good intentions," Casey says. "I don't know if that is evident in the paintings, but I hope so."
In her solo exhibition at the Michael Rosenthal Gallery, she'll feature between seven and 12 new paintings, including "Contingency," "Wedge" and "Tower."
"I think that my previous work was more about things falling apart, and although I am still very much interested in vulnerability, I think more about building and growth when I am working now," she says. "I joke that I am sort of in the brick-house phase of the three little pigs story, moving towards solidity that the earlier paintings didn't usually have."
"While I was using walls and fences to 'protect' the cities before, the cities have in some paintings - especially 'Tower' - or a painting I am still working on (yet to be titled), begun to become sort of like walls and fortresses, banding together. The piling of structures makes many buildings into a solidified unit, but elements of isolation still remain - it would not be easy to get from building to building. I think this reflects my experience of city dwelling sometimes - both crowded and lonesome at the same time."
Raised in Erie, Pa., Casey now makes her home in Cleveland, where she initially moved to attend the Cleveland Institute of Art. Following school and a brief stint of living in Chicago, she returned to the city and has referred to herself as a Rust Belt romantic.
"It's not too uncommon to find people here who sort of love the broken-down industrial history of the area. It's very bittersweet, which may be a Midwestern thing," she says. "There are people here transforming leftover remnants - old manufacturing commercial buildings into studios and apartments and other interesting projects. It's a pretty slow process, though I find a great deal of inspiration from the landscape."
The homes and buildings Casey features in her paintings are actual structures that she's found in her wanderings and photographed. Since she doesn't drive, she's found many of them in her own neighborhood and along bus routes in Cleveland.
"Amy's work is seductive. It draws you in from the first instance," says gallery owner Michael Rosenthal, who says he booked the first available flight to Cleveland to meet Casey and see her work in person after viewing it online. "The work, in its complexity, stays with you."