In the vast world of normalcy, Jeremy Cale exists on the fringe. His best days in life are spent camping in the great outdoors and living as a full-fledged mountain man. Creating art around that lifestyle has been his enduring passion. Cale is a nature artist, turning antlers and other wilderness relics into remarkable pieces of art.
“Artists have one purpose and that is to create,” explained the 32-year-old Great Bend man. “Creating art is my one true purpose in life.”
Cale is different than most artists in one respect. He lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism-related developmental disorder, characterized by sustained impairment in social interaction and nonverbal communication. The clinical definition is simply a mixture of words to Cale. Because of his disorder, he cannot read them. Asperger’s Syndrome merely represents a term to him, which defines his lifetime of challenges that cast him as an outsider to social acceptance.
“When I was a kid, I knew I had something different about me, but I didn’t know it was Asperger’s at that time,” he said. “Everyone thought I had a reading problem, and that’s as much as they knew. I tried to hide my other problems and just survive for the day, but that became impossible to do.”
In a world of alienation, he found strength and identity through art. Unbeknownst to him then, it served as therapy. Later, moving around the state as a troubled adolescent in foster care, creating art served as a familiar constant. And when he transitioned from foster care to living on his own, Cale existed hand to mouth as a starving artist.
He credits his intervening aunt, Shelley Doggett, for leading him to a better life. She connected him with Rosewood Services a dozen years ago and served as his guardian. Sadly, she passed away four years ago. Fortunately, Rosewood Services helped him to live independently. Because of that, he credits Rosewood for saving his life.
“I was having trouble surviving on my own, literally going days without eating anything,” remembered Cale. “Rosewood took me back to Great Bend and got me evaluated by the same doctor I saw when I was 13 years old. Six years later, it turned out to be Asperger’s – the reason for my struggles all those years.”
Accomplished Antler Works Featured at Rosewood Wine Cellar
Great Bend artist Jeremy Cale’s carved antlers can now be viewed and purchased at Rosewood Wine Cellar, located at 1901 Lakin, Great Bend. Cale has displayed and sold his artwork in other locations over the years, but showing them on a regular basis is a new experience for him.
“It means a lot to me that my art is on display at the Cellar,” said Cale. “It’s a matter of putting something out in the public where people have access to it every day instead of only a few days for a set period of time.”
For Rosewood Services, it is an attempt to further the efforts of the longtime artist who has received services from the agency for the past dozen years. Cale will earn 100 percent of all the antler purchases made at the Wine Cellar.
“Creating opportunity for those we serve sometimes requires a different perspective and approach that is unique to the individual, said Tammy Hammond, Rosewood founder and executive director. “Our newest retail venture provides Jeremy a chance to display and sell his wonderful art and we get to showcase one of the area’s most gifted artists.”
Cale got the idea to carve antlers from viewing Japanese art carvings on ivory tusks. He’s been practicing his favorite art medium ever since he arrived at Rosewood in February 2001. He’s completed dozens of pieces over the years.
Once a carving is completed, he absorbs ink into the carved area, bringing depth to the designs, and then he applies lacquer to the antler, giving it a permanent sheen. Most of his pieces are deer antlers, which are donated to Cale by area hunters. Occasionally, he will splurge with the purchase of an elk antler.
“Those are special because of their size and the cost of an antler, which is $100 to buy the raw material,” explained Cale. “I don’t get those, except once every couple of years. It puts extraordinary pressure on me to do well on those particular pieces.”
Cale does other forms of nature art as well: deer antler whistles, beaded bags, quilt bags, buckskins, knives, knife sheaths, and necklaces, to name several. All forms relate to his love of nature and American history.
Living as an artist with Asperger’s Syndrome creates an interesting dynamic for Cale. People tend to believe that his unique perspective comes from having Asperger’s. His focus on art is definitely enhanced by his condition, but Cale believes he prevails as an artist despite the disorder.
“I don’t think that Asperger’s has anything to do with the reason why I have a gift as an artist,” explained Cale. “Asperger’s has been a major problem in my life. At the same time, it’s clear that my focus on my art is more pronounced because I do have Asperger’s.”