Cassidy Argo, one of our Wind Fellow recipients, is a large-scale figurative painter who graduated this past year from the Moore College of Art & Design. In her recent work, Argo explores the darkness and paranormality of her childhood, painting captivating pieces that evoke layered emotions of warmth, dread, and longing.
Kevin Sun: What made you decide to get into art?
Cassidy Argo: I’ve always loved being an artist. I’m so lucky to have had such encouraging people in my life, who helped me gain confidence in my own creativity. I realized long ago that I’m happiest when working on a project that I’m passionate about. Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to pursue getting better at what I do and creating things that make me feel excited!
K.S.: Many of your paintings are framed by a textile element. How did you come to this approach?
C.A.: It started out very simple, I just wanted to find a way to address the sides of my paintings. There was something about the exposed panel on the sides that didn’t feel satisfying for me. I had the idea for plush frames when I started making paintings that juxtaposed comfort and discomfort. By creating these plush, pillow-like shapes surrounding the paintings, I could emphasize these feelings of comfort and playfulness. The patterns and textures of the fabric are reminiscent of my childhood, most of them being found and recycled materials. I really love the idea of creating an artwork that is unsettling but still feels very sentimental. For me, the process of building, sewing, and embellishing these frames is like creating a loving shrine to my memories.
K.S.: Your work often includes paranormal or eerie elements, and you’ve stated that you’re interested in the transformation of a piece into an “haunted object.” In the context of your art, what does “haunted” mean to you?
C.A.: Growing up my life always seemed to involve the paranormal and it’s become a fascination for me as an artist. It came in the form of inexplicable phenomena in my home, stories and superstitions passed down through family members, and even just childish fantasies. When I first started making art about the paranormal, (from my childhood home at the start of quarantine) I was honestly pretty spooked! I wondered if the process of creating an artwork about something creepy like a haunting could actually conjure up what I was thinking about. This made me reflect a lot about what it means for something to be haunted. If I were to decide my paintings were possessed by some entity, does that make it true? When something is said to be haunted, those who believe in that sort of thing, even just a little bit, suddenly have a very different physical relationship with the object. They’re scared to touch it or offend it in any way, but also can’t help but be intrigued and want to know its story. I’ve always been really interested in this reaction. It’s come up so much in my life, especially in my relationship with my mother, a strong believer in ghostly superstitions.
K.S.: Your art often explores the themes of childhood, nostalgia, and domesticity. Could you tell us a little bit about your childhood in Rhode Island and what draws you to that period of your life?
C.A.: I’m an incredibly nostalgic person, my childhood in Rhode Island is something I hold very dear to my heart. My siblings and I grew up living in an old, New England house from the 1920s. Our yard was always messy but big and full of bushes, plants, and vines. When you’re a kid without many distractions, you really get to know the world and the objects around you. I remember playing with my siblings, being out in nature, my parents reading us stories before bed. I think of my most recent paintings as a love letter to my childhood through an unconventional lens. Home has always been where I felt the most comfort, even memories surrounding the paranormal are very dear to me because they make me feel closer to my family.
K.S.: You’ve stated that you aim to create a blend between “comfort and discomfort.” How can these two sensations coexist? What interests you about the juxtaposition?
C.A.: By playing with feelings of comfort and discomfort, I want to capture an ambiguous and bittersweet feeling towards childhood memory. What it feels like to reminisce about a time that you can never return to. My favorite kind of art has narratives that are hard to decipher, but also have a sense of playfulness and familiarity. Through my paintings, I wanted it to feel like you were witnessing a paranormal happening, that is unsettling but without malice, like a happy ghost.
To learn more about Cassidy Argo as well as her work and her upcoming events, please visit her website.