Frederick Ted Castle

The head is probably the most important part of the body. The other indispensable parts, such as the skin. the liver, the kidneys, the lungs and even the much-discussed heart don’t have the magic of the head, probably because people are, after all, cerebral beings. We also speak of a ”head” of everything; the head of the class. the head of the penis, the head of the organization. In some languages, such as Italian and German, the head is masculine. In French and Spanish it is feminine. But everywhere it is the identifying mark, the seat of the soul, the receiver and transmitter of information and the house of the brain. It is protected and decorated by special hair of various qualities, some of which indicate the sex of the person and all of which are sexy. By looking at another person, I believe we gain much knowledge about them which we are not equipped to decode but which nevertheless largely determine our behaviour and thoughts toward the person. This effect, not proved scientifically, but imagined for centuries and in many places under different metaphors, takes place through the eyes which as Christ said are the light of the mind. Capital punishment classically severed the head from the body, and animals are still slaughtered in this humane manner. It is legendary that cannibals will eat the liver and save the head as a trophy and talisman.

The work in all The mediums that Nicola has been doing for twenty years and more culminates in the celebration of La Tete, the location of the spirit, the imagination and the memory. Over the years the image of the head, almost always in silhouette and profile has come to completely dominate her production, and I would even say, her mind. Heads are everywhere. They are painted, they are very often sawed out of flat materials, they are attached to poles, they are the shapes of tables and libraries, they form lights on stands and planters on pedestals. There is apparently nothing that Nicola can’t do with the head, although I have never seen biscuits made in this shape, nor cups and glasses in this design. Nicola is a conceptual artist who also paints, does a great many collages which involve words, usually from newspapers and magazines, and designs useful objects that recall to us, forcefully, the importance of the human head. She has made rugs like this, so we can tread upon our crowning glory. The lamps emit light around the periphery of the profile. Nicola’s heads are hard, impenetrable, symbolic and, of course, familiar. They look like somebody you know. But you don’t know who it is. Even when they imitate the supposed outlines of a profile of someone who is said to have once lived, as in the case of her Roman caesars series, they don’t quite look like something you would want to know or kiss. Normally there is no hair—that most efficient of disguises. There aren’t even eyes, but where the eyes would be you see non-eyes staring east or west but not at you. These heads are monolithic, transfixed, outlined and implacable. To me they symbolize the secrecy of human life, the utterly private quality of the enormously resourceful mentality. They don’t look like people, they look like HEADS, and in this way they remind us of our ancient thought that God made man in his own image and likeness.

“The Head, La Tete, La Cabeza, Il Capo, Der Kopf” by Frederick Ted Castle
April 13, 1989