Church Street Art Gallery in Lenox Massachusetts is devoted to bringing you the best in Outsider and Folk Art. Many people are still learning what Outsider Art is all about. We hope this helps.
Frank Maresca and Robert Ricco, authors of “American Vernacular: New Discoveries in Folk, Self-Taught, and Outsider Sculpture,” offer a clear way to think about Outsider Art. “In our very American usage, vernacular signifies art of, by, and – often but not always – for the people. It is seldom schooled but never unintentional; sometimes it participates in an art-historical awareness. Usually, however, it is not self-consciously artistic, made in response to other art forms and directed toward a community of equally self-conscious consumers … Art is something people do all the time, everywhere, when they need to and when they don’t; when others say it is wrong and when they say it is right. Why else decorate a cane, or make a decoy so perfect that no living bird could mistake it for one of its own?”
Wikipedia, the online free and open encyclopedia, has this to say about Outsider Art:
“The term Outsider Art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for Art Brut (which literally translates as “Raw Art” or “Rough Art”), a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by insane asylum inmates.
While Dubuffet’s term is quite specific, the English term “Outsider Art” is often applied more broadly, to include certain self-taught or Naive art makers who were never institutionalized.
“Typically, those labeled as Outsider Artists have little or no contact with the institutions of the mainstream art world, their work considerably being an example of intrinsic motivation, often employing unique materials or fabrication techniques. Much Outsider Art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds. Since 2000 the EUWARD, the European Award for painting and graphic arts by mentally handicapped artists, is providing this art with an international forum.
“Outsider Art has emerged as a successful art marketing category (an annual Outsider Art Fair has taken place in New York since 1992); thus the term is sometimes misapplied as a catch-all marketing label for art created by people outside the “art world” mainstream, regardless of their circumstances or the content of their work.”
It’s important to note that there is still a great divide in the art world between what we have come to appreciate as “fine art” or folk or outsider art. Unfortunately, there is “insider art” and “outsider art.”
Margit Rowell, in her introduction to “American Vernacular” puts it this way:
“How is it that there can be whole areas of creativity that are invisible to the eyes of the art establishment – things immediately familiar, yet estranged from the artistic landscape as we know it? Why is there such a great divide between the official art-world culture and … the artistic vernacular?”
This is a familiar divide in our society: the discomfort with, distrust, the discounting even of the untrained, and spontaneous outsider artist by the highly-trained, and academic official art world.
We, of course, believe this is a fight not worth fighting. Outsider art in no way challenges the glorious accomplishment of our finest fine artists. There is room in the world for all art and all artists.
Perhaps some of the friction comes from the reality that outsider artists clearly march to the sound of their own drums. Unmindful of past traditions, they respond to their own unique visions. And often don’t even imagine they are making “art.” Remember Dubuffet’s “raw art.” Well outsider art is made by raw artists. It comes from rural America, city street, our prisons and asylums. From the unappreciated and unheralded.
It’s power comes from that rawness. The unvarnished, instinctual, emotional truth that all of know.
We invite you to come outside with us. To experience the world of Outsider Art.
Here are some examples of the range and power of Outsider Art: