WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION (PART 3)
BIO & ARTIST'S STATEMENT
To be posted...
by Drew Zarrella
Local artist and philosopher Tom Kastner took an unlikely journey to become an artist during the tumultuous 1970’s. Kastner got his start over a half century ago at the age of 22 and has since worked in a number of studios and taught painting classes. Now Kastner works from his home studio doing independent projects.
Can you share a little about yourself? Are there any fun facts the reader might want to know?
I’m an artist, I’m a painter. I don’t necessarily think there are any “fun facts” the reader might want to know about me, besides art. It’s all I do.
It’s a passion?
Passion is a pretty loaded word. When I was younger it was more of a passion, but passion wears. Now that I’m older it’s a place of equipoise. A place where I can keep the world away, and maintain a kind of balance.
The work in the Wired Gallery show is being referred to as the “Golden Age” of art in New Paltz. What makes this artistic period so special?
We can talk about that whole “Golden Age” thing, but it’s going to start to give me hives. So if I start itching, you’ll know why. During this so-called “Golden Age,” drawing was the main thing. Students learned the craft at a young age, so when they came here their talents were very developed. One man said, “These kids could really draw during this time,” and called it this, so-called, “Golden Age.”
Why would a gallery be filled with art from this time period if it didn’t hold up to the hype?
I do not know what it means. It’s mindless. It’s a public relations statement. This gallery is the brainchild of two men. The first fellow, Jack Murphy, a friend, believes in two things that motivate him. One, nostalgia for a time past. We tend to mythologize our past, to make it seem more than it was. The other second thing is verisimilitude, by this I mean doing artwork in near exactitude to reality, making representational, realistic art. Jack linked up with the owner of Wired Gallery to make this happen. I believe that this man’s motivation is simply to fill the gallery.
If the 1960s weren’t a Golden Age for New Paltz art, is there a time period that stands out?
If anything, the present day is a Golden Age for SUNY New Paltz art. Faculty is now helping their students with shows in New York and Brooklyn. I think this a superb and noteworthy activity. There is much more of a commitment to the process, where students are given more help post-graduation than we were back then.
How would you describe your art in the early 1970s when you were finishing up art school?
During my final year in the art program, I was doing a lot of large sculpture pieces that mimicked bridges. It was muscle work, welding and using large timber to create massive pieces. There were always two distinct avenues with my work. Either it was sculpture and drawing, or it was conceptual work. It was art and anything I could think of. Art and geography. Art and travel. Art and philosophy. This is where there began to be a meshing of art and everything else in my life.
Do you think the world needs more artists, or do we need more business and math students? Which is more important?
I think I need to answer this question indirectly. Art is just a subset of something I like to call the aesthetic. I think the aesthetic is one of those attributes that makes us the species that we are. I like to think we have a mental life unlike any other being on this planet. Even looking back a thousand years ago, humans were crafting objects like arrow heads and tools. They had to truly think about this work in order for these tools to be effective. This sort of crafting took time and effort, much like the work we do today in the art world. Art will always be alive in this world, even if we don’t want it to be. It’s a tool for survival.