Lyell Castonguay’s relief prints invoke disparate influences including Japanese woodblocks, the naturalist works of Audubon and Buffon, and traditional Chinese brush paintings. Castonguay’s paracosm is filled with familiar animals now beholden with human emotion: tension, conflict, restlessness, and uncertainty. Castonguay’s anthropomorphic animals are both dignified with personality yet have irretrievably lost the quintessential wildness that defines their character. The viewer is left to wonder what else has been irretrievably lost in the wake of humanities march. The distorted narratives are the result of Castonguay’s interest in subjects of environmental decline, natural resource commodification, displacement, and transience — all of which are present in images that are as tragic as they are whimsical.
Castonguay teaches woodblock printmaking at studios throughout New England. He is also the director of BIG INK, a collaborative project that encourages other artists to practice large scale woodblock printing. Castonguay received his BFA from the New Hampshire Institute of Art in 2010 and resides in Newmarket, NH. Past exhibits include the Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea; Fine Art Works Center, Provincetown, MA; Western New England University, Springfield, MA; Bromfield Gallery, Boston, MA; and the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA.
Feathery Devils Series
For more images and info on this body of work
and others, check out Lyell's website
A woodcut is an image carved into the plank surface of a piece of wood. The areas that show white are cut away leaving the image to show black on the surface level. The wood is then rolled with ink to show the design. Using hand chisels, we execute a carving into a boarded up window, door, or neglected wall. After the carving is complete we roll ink across the surface of the window, door, or wall and leave it as a permanently installed mural on the premises. Carved Content’s mission is to popularize the woodcut medium by placing it in highly visible and openly accessible locations within the local community. After viewing the woodcut mural we hope community members will seek out additional information about Carved Content, the history and tradition of woodcut, and other artists who practice printmaking.
Using partial funding awarded by the ECA+ and provided by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Carand and I will begin working on a 5 1/2 foot large woodcut on the side of the defunct Hurry & Scurry copy center at 118 Union St in Easthampton, MA starting July 2013. Our mural will depict the cross section of a tree with all the growth rings fully carved. The choice of subject is inspired by the persistence of nature in the face of urbanization (moss and grass grow plentifully inside the Hurry & Scurry building) and our recognition of the sudden recent passing of Bryan Nash Gill who’s woodcuts illustrate the complex intricacies of the natural world.
Easthampton is a burgeoning arts center in western Massachusetts. The town is located in the Pioneer Valley – about 2 hours from Boston. It is a small community with many talented artists. Everyone has been incredibly supportive of our project including: Pine Valley Real Estate, ECA+, and the Mass Cultural Council.
IMAGES LEFT: Lyell carving out the rings of the cross section of a tree on a neglected wall in Northampton, MA