Part Three: The Right Brain Takes Over
Richard sits across the coffee shop table from us smiling and with a look of expectation on his face as though waiting for a menu of questions from us. For the first time in this meeting, both Russ and I are speechless. Hundreds of questions swirl around in my feathery brain, but is it OK to ask these hard questions?
“Do you hurt?” The momma in me is the first to speak.
He looks very surprised at my question and asks me to repeat it.
“Do you hurt?” I ask again.
Yes he does. He always hurts. His back hurts. His head hurts. His right hand and wrist hurt.
We can’t see his pain because he wears his smile so well and stands so tall and proud even now that he doesn’t have to wear his Marine khakis. His eyes are a bright hazel and don’t reflect what he’s already seen in his twenty-eight years.
Richard was twenty-three when he came home from Iraq with enough horror in his heart to last a lifetime.
The left side of his brain was damaged from the multiple percussive shocks he suffered in war. Because of his injuries, the right side of his brain took the lead in his thinking and behavior and learning patterns and expression. Mother Goose has heard that the right side of our brains contains gray matter which can become very creative if allowed to flourish and dominate our lives.
The high school Richard attended in Washburn, Illinois had very little to offer in the art department. At that time in his life, he had little desire or much opportunity to explore any art expression.
Upon his return from Iraq, however, he enrolled in the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. His roommate suggested he try his hand at ceramics. Richard fell in love at first touch — the clay felt right, and he found that this tactile approach to art was the perfect outlet for the creative expression he longed to make. He had so many ideas and wanted to tell stories about the war in a conceptual way. By the end of his first semester of ceramics class, he had found his heart in the workings of clay.
Here is how Richard describes one of his works:
“One of my favorite pieces, a fifty-gallon oil drum made of clay, demonstrates this perfectly. To create this piece, I used only my hands and a smoothing tool after coil-building it to the height I desired. My nieces added the finishing touches to the barrel by coloring all over it.
I wanted authentic children’s drawings on the piece to represent innocence.
Once the oil drum was done I made a little children’s doll out of clay. It was an alien creature but from a distance it looked like a teddy bear with his head blown off. I set this on top of the oil drum for the final display of the piece.
The work all together represents the loss of innocence during war. The barrel is to represent the war in Iraq, and the kids’ doll and drawings represent the presence of a child and innocence.
What I really want to portray to people is that life or death situations and witnessing death takes a part of someone that can’t be gained back.”
This quote is taken from Richard’s website, http://www.richardcasper.com. If you visit there, you’ll see samples of his ceramics as well as his photography. He also takes the time to explain the “hows and whys” of his art.
One of my favorite pieces is an installation-type of project that Richard has named, “Late Admissions”. This work is currently on display at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.
Please stop and take the time to really see this piece — you will be moved to a new level of understanding about the men and women who have protected us and paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
Richard visits the final resting place of his buddy, Luke Yepsen, every year and also spends time with Luke’s mother in Houston. I believe that much of his most beautiful conceptual art is inspired by the very personal loss of his good friend.
Mother Goose loves the art of this brave veteran and believes that his message is so valuable to our nation. Our country has lost much in the cost of war. We have lost our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, our friends and loved ones.
Our veterans and returning soldiers have lost much in service to America. They have lost limbs. They have lost their memories. They have lost sleep. They have lost peace. They’ve lost track of time. They have lost their innocence. We have all lost so much.
But The Ballad of Richard Casper is a story of hope and joy and vision. I hope you can return for the next verse of this song!