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Review/Interview of ABSURD SURVIVAL

By: Mike Dulin

“I had been on a hike and I was thinking about absurdity and why do I make things so hard in life, why is it always two steps forward one step back,” says conceptual artist Casey Criddle about her show “Absurd Survival”, “and so I began thinking about tying rocks to my shoes.”

This epiphany came at the end of a long journey of thought and production. The young artist’s solo show, consisting of 32 works on view at Shockoe Art Space, spans out like a diary of a 2 ½ year philosophical path. In her paintings, Criddle offers thoughtful references to consider regarding the aftermaths of an apocalyptic world and what survival could mean for the human spirit. Such is her absurd metaphor painting, "BRB”, one of the larger panels of acrylic a top a base of automotive paint. The painted image is of a hiking boot with two rocks bound to it with line. The vision realized during her own struggle had become its own glaring example of what she had been working toward after all this time. Criddle does not dwell in tragedy but in the struggle and the absurdity found throughout life. 

“The modern world is so intense to me; there is a lot of stimulation. Survival has been on my mind every day, I think about mental health a lot. Sometimes it’s not muscle hard its brain hard. Survival has so much to do on this next level”

Her body of work, consisting of various sized acrylics on panel, as well as a collection of screen prints and drawings all to guide the viewer through a sort of surreal J. Peterman Catalogue. She shows what a life of survival could look like for unidentified survivors found in the items they have gathered, the shelters they build, and the tools they need. Like a waste land scavenger, her images used for reference are found not in rubble heaps but scoured from the internet complete with painted watermarks, from cult movies, and camping catalogues. She magnifies the solutions of meaning a person might gather for there own desired needs.

In a series of paintings entitled, “Shelter site”, encampments are staged as still life portraits. The found objects in the scenes are collaged together to mirror the struggles of the survivor and the stress they endure. As well as in her monolithic, 2 panel piece, “Nest”, Criddle saturates the scene of a stone encampment, a distorted overhead view, with these found references. The viewer works to understand the value of items included and what life they would afford.

“Because I have this influence of camping and nature, it is often very apparent in those situations this constant challenge. So I think I used it, nature, as this metaphor for absurdity because it is very visually obvious and always happening, it is easy for nature to trip you up all the time. The post apocalypse storyline is just in regard to our world situation in general. There is a trope of that kind of philosophy to talk about the end of the world or ending your life and how the world makes no sense.”  

In the end her playful regard to the question of, “What is the purpose of life” allows theviewer to recognize nature’s ambivalence to the human ordeal. Of how humans can often commit secular suicide, halting the process of questioning life, and instead lose them in a commodity culture or entertainment fog to put the question to rest.

“In real life it is usually nature hitting you with the challenges but in my images it is a man made absurdity. Who tied the rock to the shoe after all? “

Artist Casey Criddle’s solo show, “Absurd Survival,” will be on display by appointment at Shockoe Art Space until the end of August. A public closing party will be held August 17th 7-9 p.m. Shockoe Art Space is located at 12 North 19th Street, Richmond, VA, 23223. For more information go to