R.I.P. Rodger Casier artist extraordinaire: Crazy Art

by Debra Hosseini

March 30, 1955 – July 11, 2013
March 30, 1955 – July 11, 2013

Besides faded photographs, I own three things that belong to my Dad who passed in 1996 – his poker set, a World War II medal (he was a bomber pilot in the historic battle of Midway), and an original painting. I remember Dad purchasing the painting sometime in the 1980’s. It has been up and down on my walls over the last 17 years.


When I owned a bigger house, it was always displayed. Now in my smaller condo, Kevin‘s art dominates the walls.

It is very strange my Dad purchased a piece of art, because he wasn’t an art collector and to my knowledge had no interest in art. He never took me to art museums or galleries when I was a child.

Three weeks ago, I decided to look up the artist on the internet. Lo and behold, the art piece is an original Rodger Casier. For those in Santa Barbara who are familiar with outsider art, Rodger is well-known. On the schizophrenic spectrum, he is one of the subjects of a great film called Crazy Art. The film was produced by J.T. Turner and directed by a fellow Carpinterian Justin Rowe. In 2010 I was disappointed that I had missed the film at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. I purchased it a year ago at a S.C.A.P.E. benefit for Phoenix of Santa Barbara.

I met Rodger once at the Mental Health Arts Festival in Santa Barbara’s De La Guerra Plaza. We both had booths displaying art.

Rodger at the Mental Health Art Fair
Rodger at the Mental Health Arts Festival

Today Kurt and I walked to a local coffee house for some brew. I picked up the weekly Santa Barbara Independent and was flipping through the pages when I saw a memoriam for Rodger Casier written by J.T. Turner.

In the memoriam, J.T. Turner says, “When he did art, he could keep the voices at bay, he could create a space free of depression for a while, but then soon afterward, that depression would return, and he would be suffering again.”

He goes on to say that Rodger in the film has an antidote for his depression, “Keep busy; just keep busy.”

Rodger that is great advice. Kevin has similar issues. We always try to keep him busy. Art has been one of his best allies in his battle with schizophrenia and depression.

In the past, Rodgers art works were selected by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) for their holiday cards. His art was featured on the covers of several professional psychology journals, including the prestigious Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Self-Portrait. Rodger used intense colors and geometric shapes as key elements.
Self-Portrait. Rodger used intense colors and geometric shapes as key elements.

J.T. Turner spoke at his memorial attended by over 130 friends, family members, and those from the helping profession who worked with him. J.T. said, “Rodger, I will miss you. I will miss your strong energy, your smile, your love of color and lines that mesmerize us. I will miss your welcoming spirit and how upbeat you were, even in difficult times. I will miss our very blue eyes, your grizzly chops, and your thick tousled hair. I will miss your love of learning, and will cherish our times together. Goodbye, dear Rodger.”

When I read these words in the newspaper today, I started to cry. I think a big spirit passed from Santa Barbara this summer. I wish I knew Rodger better.

I hope others watch the documentary Crazy Art. The film features three artists, based in Santa Barbara, California: Trinaty Wakefield, Rodger Casier, and Lesley Grogan. It’s a wonderful look at the power of art to help heal mental illness and depression.


Click here to read the full text of J.T. Turner’s In Memoriam Rodger Casier.

I don’t know why my dad bought that painting. Maybe he knew one day I’d be writing this article. Dad, I’m happy you bought that painting. Today I hung Rodger’s painting on my living room wall where I work.

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