FACETIME- Artful fiction: Ros Casey's ready for her closeup

Rosamond Casey knows exactly what kind of fame she wants. The 54-year-old artist imagines standing outside a circus tent filled with literati and celebrities. She lifts a corner of the canvas to peek inside. For a fleeting moment, everyone turns to stare at her– and then she runs away.

This vision, a more elaborate version of Andy Warhol's 15 minutes, is vintage Casey, involving staging, characters, and a symbolic glimpse of life.

Those three components also provide the fuel for Casey's epic multi-media installation, "Mapping the Dark: A Museum of Ambient Disorders," which explores 10 characters through invented artifacts. First exhibited in 2003 at the McGuffey Art Center, the show will receive a three-day encore at the University of Virginia Art Museum during the Festival of the Book.

Casey says she began noticing people's individuality as a child. While her mother spent time sculpting in their Washington, D.C. basement, Casey was always drawing. "I would look at people," she remembers, "and notice the shape of their nostrils and the way their eyes taper at the corner."

During a college-age stint in Portland, Oregon, Casey encountered calligraphy. "That kind of lit me up more than anything else in art," she says, explaining her attraction to how the page serves as a stage for a symbolic mark.

When she moved to Charlottesville in 1981 to join her husband, novelist John Casey, she became a McGuffey Art Center member. Working in her second-floor studio, she realized that bookmaking formed a natural extension of her calligraphy and painting, and she began contemplating the question, "How do you look at art as something other than two-dimensional on the wall?"

Casey's inspiration for "Mapping the Dark" sprang from a three-part exhibition of book art she created in the mid-1990s.

"I was collaborating with a living poet, with a dead composer in another work," she says," and in the third instance– and this is the seminal instance for what happened in 'Mapping the Dark'– with an imaginary character."

She decided her next piece would explore 10 fictional individuals, each grappling with a specific pathology. "It was the marrying of things: what is their problem, what is their medium, and who are they," Casey explains.

"It's almost as if she heard them and saw them," says Katherine McNamara, editor of the online magazine Archipelago (archipelago.org), which featured images from "Mapping the Dark" in two issues. "I don't think she invented them. I think she, in a really important way, translated them."

The Virginia Quarterly Review's Winter 2006 issue also included a 25-page spread examining four characters from "Mapping the Dark," introduced with an essay by award-winning art writer Lawrence Weschler.

Ms. Casey, don't look now, the literati are beginning to stare.

Rosamond Casey's "Mapping the Dark: A Museum of Ambient Disorders" is on view March 23-26 at the University of Virginia Art Museum. A guided tour by the artist is scheduled for March 26 at 3pm.

Rosamond Casey