Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Showing posts sorted by relevance for query I'm not at the outsider art show. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query I'm not at the outsider art show. Sort by date Show all posts

Annual I'm not at the Outsider Art Fair 2017 post. Are Cartoonists Outsider Artists? Elizabeth Stohn and Fred Johnson

These drawings were done from 1918 to 1919 by Elizabeth Stohn.  Ms Stone was a child at the time, and was something of a "cross-category" artist.  Part Schoolgirl art, part naive, part trained (as she had just completed her "art school training" by correspondence school. )  Certainly not what is generally considered "outsider" art, though that term is pretty widely applied as far as I can tell.  These are folky and charming, but not really folk art either.  Outsider Art? Nah.

While thousands of women studied art and (like Ms. Stohn) aspired to be an artist, even naming early woman artists is hard.  They were screwed over ever since they were here in every field.  Why should art (or comics, for that matter) be the domain of men?  Plus, here is a secret…they were often better than the men and never received the credit.  They were lost and laboring as "anonymous" in quilting, needle-point, and other acceptable near domestic arts.   

Labels appropriate to Ms. Stohn could maybe include "rebel" too.  I have written about her life and how she was one of the first women to use "thought and caption" balloons.  That post sorta went mini-viral in the comic book world, being picked up by comic historians and suchThe Comics journal linked to it as well. One day I hope to scan her entire "graphic novel"  From Poverty to Luxary (sic)

I remember respected art scholar and dealer Randall Morris saying something like "Cartoonists have their own school, they aren't outsider artists" and I don't differ with him.  Still there are many standards being applied on the walls of the outsider art fair, and each show will continue the mixed blessing of being labeled as an outsider. 

"I know it when I see it" was used to describe pornography by Justin Potter when ruling in a landmark obscenity case heard by the Supreme Court in 1964. I am pretty sure he threw his hands up when he said it.  "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..." he said.  We should avoid that esteemed opinion when evaluating outsider art.  

A wonderful group of  "comic books" were one of discoveries at the last Outsider Art Fair.  I'll guess he took some courses too, but it is a guess.  Dan Nadel would be the person to ask. I sure would love to see them, but as I say, I wasn't there. 

(There was another Johnson (real name Ferd or Ferdinand Johnson) working at the same time in Chicago, and he became quite well-known among other cartoonists.  Same fellow? I can't tell…I didn't go go cartoonist school! (joke)  It was certainly not the same fellow,  but neither of them were being "obsessive" about drawing.  They were just doing what comic book artists do.  That would be filling page after page with drawings.  Ask Gary Panter, a great artist who is not an outsider.  He published a massive book containing his sketchbooks.  Read the great essay on Frank, the outsider HERE by Dan Nadel.  There were other great cartoon artists (Basil Wolverton, Windsor McCay for example) and there were plenty of bizarre comic strip artists who were visionaries.  Mr. Nadel knows his stuff…See the magnificent volumes he put together on some HERE. Any library specializing in any art must have these two books.  Like the books displayed at the last outsider art fair, he reveals dozens of quirky and magnificently talented artists, be they self-taught or not.

Ponder on what an outsider artist is, and if the work you are appraising fits some arbitrary non-definition like Justice Steven's frustrated legal opinion of smut, ponder more. Everyone has their own concept. But can we agree, at least, that if one went to art school, he isn't an outsider?  Outsider Art...I know it when I see it.

Other articles in the I'm Not at the Outsider Art Fair series are HERESee also two books on Folk art Outsider art by the writer Jim Linderman HERE and HERE.

Outsider Art Fair 20th Anniversary Review from Afar 2012

No, the pictures above are not from the Outsider Art Fair 20th anniversary.

Viewing the 20th anniversary outsider art fair from afar, through slide shows, it appears after all that time the field (as I hate to call it) is still confused, too inclusive and loaded with baggage. At best a misnomer, the term has been squabbled over for so long I gave up, but with distance and time, I will revisit.

Shown here is the material which first attracted my eye, the Black Folk Art show of 1982. A magnificent exhibition of material which was mistakenly included under the rubric of outsider art around the same time, but a show which to this day remains as one of the best curated art shows of my lifetime.

The true defining criteria for anyone being marketed as an outsider is a complete lack of training in the arts. No schooling and I'm not fooling. I have always felt anyone aware enough of the art world to claim to be an outsider doesn't qualify AS an outsider. I don't mind artists, dealers or collectors fighting over the definition, if they still do..but once again it is obvious a few ringers are slipping in. People who even begin to utter "I am an outsider artist" do not pass the test. And no, art school "drop-outs" do NOT qualify either. Neither does anything from an "other-worldly" environment, culture or country if it is part of the regional milieu.

The other primary criteria is that the artists work in some form of isolation. This could be as a result of institutionalization, a lack or educational opportunities, a religious fervor, an undefined particular visionary impulse...you name it...but while creating their initial body of work they have no idea anyone else is doing it, and they make it all from their own devices. No looking at Sotheby's catalogs or finding a "how to paint" brochure at the flea market. None. NONE.

However, the "trained or untrained" aspect, dicey enough, isn't the most unfortunate definitional failure of the material or the show. It is the inherent dichotomy of lumping together artists who come from no school and FIT into no school together in one place. How can a group of artists be labeled and lumped as outsiders when by definition they have absolutely nothing to do with each other?

Which is why I show the photographs above. You see, these artists DID come from a "school" of sorts. All the artists included in the Black Folk Art show had something in common...all were from fairly early generations which were descendants of slaves. They thus, to some degree or another, shared the common experience of having been displaced...and all held again, to some degree, a shared African-American esthetic which was retained, unconscious or not, in their work. They shared a common origin (to the extent that their ancestors were taken from one huge continent and brought to another) and they shared an inherent consistency of cultural artistic expression. Which is why together they formed a successful exhibition. Not really a "school" mind you, as originally none of them had any idea the others existed, but an esthetic. They lacked educational skills, formal training and awareness of the arts but that was the result of racism more than any other circumstance.

They were mistakenly included originally as "outsiders" when the field formed, and their works still appear here and there as by far the best work in the outsider show. Bill Traylor, Sam Doyle, William Edmondson. Even the lesser known and lesser skilled George Williams, whose frontal totemic carved figures look quite smart above. I say the best work, but that still doesn't mean they belong there.

There is other good work at the show...I presume the magnificent Electric Pencil work was there, and I suspect James Castle was represented, but they were true isolates with completely unique consistent visions. In other words, they qualify but they do not belong.

Unfortunately the few rare genuine articles and the Black folk artists from the exhibition pictured above continue to be presented in a forum which persists to lump together all manner of eccentrics, wanna-bees and what a good friend of mine used to refer to, with little irony, as "failed trained artists" on the walls with no intellectual validity or foundation other than a good weekend bourse. In other words, a good show to visit but not to write about.

Pair of original "installation view" photographs by Michelle Andonian 1983 Collection Jim Linderman

I'm not at the Outsider Art Fair 2020 Annual Post Children's Art Art Brut ?

The Outsider Art Fair snuck up on me this year, and while I haven't gone in a decade, for the same amount of time I've tried to come up with something interesting to share during the season.  This year the showing of Children's Artworks of the 1930s from the Kuniyoshi Collection made a choice easy, as I've been fascinated by the relationship between schooling and art creation a long time.  The psychological aspects of development through exposure to public schooling and mass media is relatable to both Outsider Art and and that of trained artists, children and otherwise.  I've collected some good examples of art from the age of development in which artists become artists…and the tools and techniques provided through schooling.  There is a period when artists decide they have become artists. 

From the start, I've avoided refrigerator art.  I suppose every child for the last hundred years in the United States has been handed paints and brushes in class at some time.  However, it is the exceptional students I look for.  Quirky examples with both beauty and some wonder…those with a little extra drive and motivation.  In each case, I will link to further pieces which have been posted here.  Hopefully, what will be revealed is a dozen categories of interest.

An example of the broad strokes and "folky" art of a child.  The subject matter is important, as Lou Gehrig was likely a hero to the artist.  This is an example of what I call Refrigerator Art.  If you are a parent, you'll understand. Anonymous c. 1939  Original Post

Boys like to draw war and weapons.  It is unfortunate we live in a world in which they are common.  Still, the most lovely and interesting work can be characterized by the same creative impulses which arise in in a child in a manner similar to that of talented adults.  Kenneth Hetrick 1931 
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In this case, it is a schoolgirl drawing the Man of Steel and Lois.  A good example of art influenced by popular culture, yet still showing an individualistic approach. Audrey K. circa 1950 
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Handmade books by children are common.  Here,  a schoolgirl creates a nice one using the preferred paper of children.  Manila!  Darlene Olds 1934  Original Post

Pages from a miniature cookbook 4" x 6" created circa 1940 - 1945 by Carol Birkett and her friend Patty.  Original text directions and a few clipped from magazines.  Original Post

The cover of a handmade sewing manual created as a class assignment. The woman on the cover is reading her own book!  Anonymous Circa 1950? Original post

Story of the Corn from scarecrow to the popper!  A narrative by an anonymous 19th century child.
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Art lessons in crayon.  Anonymous practice design reflecting school training circa 1910.  
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Dazzling detail on an Ohio schoolhouse by Ora Maxwell circa 1890.  It is often difficult to determine if a drawing is "folk art" or "art by a child" as  any distinctions can blur.  Original Post
A Jester performs.  An example from the numerous "coloring books" distributed in the late 19th century.  This drawing was copied from a commercial example provided for students to replicate in their own hand.  Anonymous circa 1900 Original Post

Circa 1880 Frederich Froebel paper weavings created by children in some of the more enlightened schools.  The educator and scholar was responsible for fitting lots of children into a world where color worked and lines mattered.  Anonymous Original Post

Examples of pre-punched sewing cards which were popular in teaching situations from 1880 on.  Young woman were taught the skills of domestic chores...and the subject matter was often religious.  Moral instruction while learning dexterity.  Anonymous completed sewing cards.
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The last examples are cheating, as they were drawn by a "Magic Pattern" toy from the 1930s or so.  Similar to the later common Spirograph!  Still, likely "drawn" by a child.
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There are plenty of other beautiful examples of art created by the young.  I avoid the psychological and developmental implications when looking for examples to collect.  I'll leave that up to the educators!  Many more examples are found on the blog.  
OTHER EXAMPLES OF I'm not at the outsider art show ARE FOUND ON THE BLOG WITH A CLICK...but one can just browse. See also this CLICK.  Many of the examples here were self published in my book Eccentric Folk Art Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries available in a paperback or an affordable instant download.

Sister Gertrude Morgan God's Greatest Hits Rod McKuen and Me! Annual I am not at the Outsider Art Fair 2016 Post

God's Greatest Hits which featured a dozen or so splendid paintings by Sister Gertrude Morgan was quite popular 45 years ago when published.  Some 300,000 copies were sold.  Book sales like that are improbable now, I can assure you.  It didn't hurt that the works illustrated were from the private collection of "middle of the road" poet Rod McKuen, or that the book was written by God.  Well, whoever wrote the Bible, that is.  31 biblical quotes, the colorful "googly eyes" works by the Sister and wrapped up with a nice sleeve in a tiny format.  As some of the little books were inscribed and/or even had an original work by the preacher, I've opened used copies of the book numerous times. 

But what became of the McKuen collection?  Read on...

I collected Sister Morgan's work heavily decades ago.  At one time I had fifteen of them arranged around my New York City rent-controlled apartment.  I even painted the walls and floor just like she did…it was like living in her little house / chapel.  They were relatively affordable then, though I do remember spending three grand on a really big one. The ones I found most interesting were apparently among her first works.  Crayon and shoe polish (white, of course) which were painted on cardboard and I presume used as Bible "flash cards" for the Lord.  They were uncharacteristic, and less dense than the later work.  Each depicted an obscure Bible story with a passage about each written on the reverse.  They were designed to be read while aiming them towards an audience. Like all my works by the artist, they are now in a private collection.  I don't think anyone will mind me sharing them here.  I even owned a T-bone steak she had signed and used as her stylus to paint the eyes of her self-portraits.  That now has an unknown owner too, and I hope it will not eventually be lost.  The bone was once shown in a book on folk art, at least. The photos are a bit fuzzy and I don't even have pictures of most of them, but here you go.  As you will see, at the time I was the perfect candidate for the good sister to cure...I was drinking and my hands shook!  The ones I can't show are too blurred (or never photographed.)

As for the God's Greatest Hits paintings?  By coincidence, a number of them are being sold on Ebay currently!  Those shown below, which filled pages of the tiny book and warmed Rod McKuen's heart…and listed for sale.  I presume the originals were purchased  by Mr. Mckuen from New Orleans gallerist Larry Borenstein, who nurtured her talent.  But how they ended up on America's garage sale is a mystery.  I certainly can not afford them anymore, but maybe you can.  There will certainly be a few at the Outsider Art show. 

Some of the works I used to have are shown in photographs of the artist in the spectacular "Tools of her Ministry" book by William Fagaly.  One hangs directly over her head while she studies the Bible.  The book was edited by a much respected friend Tanya Heinrich and designed by equally much respected friend John Hubbard.  It remains one of the most thorough and beautiful catalogs of a self-taught artist.  It is the one to buy, though there are certainly plenty of God's Greatest Hits floating around.  I was immensely proud to be included in the acknowledgements but didn't loan anything to the traveling exhibition.  Mine were gone!   

I have seen God's Greatest Hits shoved in among religious tracts in used bookstores.  Again, one should always look for any inscriptions and drawings on the title page.  The good sister painted a few of her record sleeves too, but be careful if you buy the CD.  One version was "funked up" by some looser hipster overdubs. 

Tools Of Her Ministry oddly does not appear on the American Folk Art Museum Book ordering page, but it is available HERE and you should join the Museum too.  My apartment, on the edge of Times Square, has been split in half and is now two studios, each costing as much a month as I paid for an entire year.  The works shown here are all in private collections.  The bone / stylus I owned was shown in the long out of print book Contemporary American Folk Artists by Elinor Landor Horwitz.  It is recommended and as books are largely dead weight now, available on used book sites for pennies and postage.

OTHER EDITIONS of the "I'm not at the Outsider Art Fair" essays are HERE
Finally, I still have some stuff left!  The new book (and $9.99 ebook) ECCENTRIC FOLK ART DRAWINGS OF THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES from the Jim Linderman collection is available HERE.