Visual Arts

BMCA Showcases Warren Wilson Woodworkers

War chest, John Casey, artist

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts (BMCA) is honored to display the work of two men, Dirck Cruser and John Casey, both of whom left a lasting impression on the Warren Wilson College (WWC) community. The show will be held in BMCA’s Upper Gallery beginning Friday, April 20, with an opening reception from 6–8 p.m., and running through May 18.

“Both of these men were creative and influential,” says Gale Jackson, executive director of BMCA. “They were contemporaries who used wood in new ways that were organic and beautifully rendered, very fluid.” Jackson, who curated this show, has worked for several years with the artists’ widows, women who are passionate about sharing their husbands’ legacies.

Cruser (1940-1996) was a prolific, self-taught abstract artist who worked in a wide range of mediums. He moved to WWC from Santa Barbara, CA, where he had made his living as a graphic designer. While in California he began carving wooden shore birds, children’s toys and furniture before creating his fi rst commissioned wood sculpture in 1971. After moving to NC, he built a home from several native wood species near the WWC campus.

He is best known locally for creating Asheville’s fi rst commissioned public art work, the iconic Energy Loop in 1983. Controversial at the time of its installation and moved to a new site across from the courthouse in 2009, Energy Loop is made of CorTen steel. In the 1990s, Cruser’s focus shifted toward painting. His artwork has been widely exhibited and he has received numerous awards and fellowships. Cruser’s widow Karen and daughter Laura are assisting with the curating of this show.

John Casey joined the WWC faculty in 1991 as a philosophy professor. He created the Integrative Studies major, was College Philosopher and served three years as interim academic dean. Many people were unaware of his passion for woodworking. He created the large, wooden sign that greets visitors at the campus’ south entrance. Beloved by students and colleagues, he was a free spirit who used his art to explore social outcasts and politics.

“What even those who knew him may not know is that he had a former life building spiral staircases, sculpting church linen-fold railings and competing on the art circuit,” says his widow Rebecca. “He questioned why furniture couldn’t evoke emotions such as funny or sad.” This show will include a sculpted chest that artfully depicts the sorrow of the Vietnam War, a life-sized Tinkertoy table and chair set and one of his Street People series. “He wanted to blur the distinctions between what was considered art and craft,” says Rebecca.

ALSO IN APRIL: A Slice of Life: An Evening of Storytellers, Saturday, April 21, 7:30 p.m., $15/$20. Join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan- Blake, and six of her “Taking the Stage” workshop participants for an enchanting evening of storytelling.

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is located at 225 West State Street. The Upper Gallery is free to the public and open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 828.669.0930 or visit

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