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A p u b l i c at i o n o f I n t u i t : T h e C e n t e r f o r I n t u i t i v e a n d O u t s i d e r A r t

The Outsider

Memorable faces Forget Me NOT explores the art of the portrait

V o l u m e 1 5 | Iss u e 1 | Fa l l 1 0

Small wonders The big role of ‘littleness’ in Henry Darger

Fantastic! Steffen’s one-eyed nudes and other curious creatures


EDI TOR Janet Franz

CARL HAMMER GALLERY

ART D IRE CTI ON & DES IG N Lowercase, Inc. E XE CUT I VE C OMMI TTEE Patrick Blackburn, President William Swislow, Immediate Past President Ralph Concepcion, Vice President & Development Chair Gail Garcia Steffen, Treasurer Susann Craig, Secretary Kevin Cole, Communications Chair Lisa Stone, Collections & Acquisitions Chair Jerry Stefl, Education Chair

The Outsider F E At u r es

13 Portraits of others

By Amy M. Mooney Forget Me NOT offers insight into faces on a canvas— and also reflects ourselves and the society we inhabit

Jan Petry, Exhibits Chair BOARD M E MBERS Cathryn Albrecht Keith Bodner Russell Bowman Tracy Dillard Victor Espinosa Cheri Eisenberg Marjorie Freed Nancy Gerrie Terry Glover Eugenie Johnson Bob Roth Judy Saslow Nikki Will Stein Terry Sweig David Syrek ADVERT IS IN G SA L ES Theresa Mah STAFF Cleo Wilson, Executive Director

19 Small but mighty

By Leisa Rundquist How ‘littleness’ takes on epic proportions in the art of Henry Darger

Interview by Lisa Stone

By Michael Bonesteel Nudes and other magnificent nonentities highlight Charles Steffen’s originality

23 Henry Darger Room Collection helps advance scholarly research 25 Bared souls

28 A ‘hopeful’ exhibit

Interview by Janet Franz As Intuit prepares to celebrate 20 years, curator mines the treasures in its collection

Robert Burnier, Program Director, Collections & Exhibitions Melissa Marinaro, Interim Program Director, Education

02

What’s Happening at Intuit

Kevin Mulcahy, Membership Coordinator

37

Education

The Outsider is published once a year by Intuit: The

38

Recent Acquisitions & Promised Gifts

40

Book Reviews

43

Movie Reviews

45

Major Donors

Heather Holbus, Program Coordinator

Wood carved and polychromed articulated figures by Clifton Sulzer, c. 1930, Romney, W. Virginia

Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, located at 756 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642. Prior to Fall 1996, Volume 1, Issue 1, The Outsider was published as In’tuit. The annual subscription rate is included with membership and the magazine is

C A R L H A M M E R G A L L E RY, I N C . | 7 4 0 N . W E L L S S T R E E T, C H I C AG O, I L L I N O I S 6 0 6 5 4 3 1 2 . 2 6 6 . 8 5 1 2 | HammerG all@ aol. com | www. H ammerG allery. com

D e pa r tme n ts

mailed to all members.

On the Cover: Morris Hirshfield (1872–1946), American Beauty, 1942. Oil on canvas, 48 x 40 in. The Gael Mendelsohn Collection


EDI TOR Janet Franz

CARL HAMMER GALLERY

ART D IRE CTI ON & DES IG N Lowercase, Inc. E XE CUT I VE C OMMI TTEE Patrick Blackburn, President William Swislow, Immediate Past President Ralph Concepcion, Vice President & Development Chair Gail Garcia Steffen, Treasurer Susann Craig, Secretary Kevin Cole, Communications Chair Lisa Stone, Collections & Acquisitions Chair Jerry Stefl, Education Chair

The Outsider F E At u r es

13 Portraits of others

By Amy M. Mooney Forget Me NOT offers insight into faces on a canvas— and also reflects ourselves and the society we inhabit

Jan Petry, Exhibits Chair BOARD M E MBERS Cathryn Albrecht Keith Bodner Russell Bowman Tracy Dillard Victor Espinosa Cheri Eisenberg Marjorie Freed Nancy Gerrie Terry Glover Eugenie Johnson Bob Roth Judy Saslow Nikki Will Stein Terry Sweig David Syrek ADVERT IS IN G SA L ES Theresa Mah STAFF Cleo Wilson, Executive Director

19 Small but mighty

By Leisa Rundquist How ‘littleness’ takes on epic proportions in the art of Henry Darger

Interview by Lisa Stone

By Michael Bonesteel Nudes and other magnificent nonentities highlight Charles Steffen’s originality

23 Henry Darger Room Collection helps advance scholarly research 25 Bared souls

28 A ‘hopeful’ exhibit

Interview by Janet Franz As Intuit prepares to celebrate 20 years, curator mines the treasures in its collection

Robert Burnier, Program Director, Collections & Exhibitions Melissa Marinaro, Interim Program Director, Education

02

What’s Happening at Intuit

Kevin Mulcahy, Membership Coordinator

37

Education

The Outsider is published once a year by Intuit: The

38

Recent Acquisitions & Promised Gifts

40

Book Reviews

43

Movie Reviews

45

Major Donors

Heather Holbus, Program Coordinator

Wood carved and polychromed articulated figures by Clifton Sulzer, c. 1930, Romney, W. Virginia

Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, located at 756 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642. Prior to Fall 1996, Volume 1, Issue 1, The Outsider was published as In’tuit. The annual subscription rate is included with membership and the magazine is

C A R L H A M M E R G A L L E RY, I N C . | 7 4 0 N . W E L L S S T R E E T, C H I C AG O, I L L I N O I S 6 0 6 5 4 3 1 2 . 2 6 6 . 8 5 1 2 | HammerG all@ aol. com | www. H ammerG allery. com

D e pa r tme n ts

mailed to all members.

On the Cover: Morris Hirshfield (1872–1946), American Beauty, 1942. Oil on canvas, 48 x 40 in. The Gael Mendelsohn Collection


What’s Happening at Intuit CH-CHA NGES Effective June 1, Intuit instituted a gallery admission fee of $5 for non-members. Admission will remain free to members and children under 12 as well as to openings of all exhibitions and to gallery talks and lectures. Admission for school and adult groups is made by arrangement.

In February, an opening night reception for the traveling exhibit The Treasure of Ulysses Davis attracted a crowd eager to ogle more than 100 pieces by the sculptor. Photo: Cheri Eisenberg

Intuit recently marked its 19th anniversary. It was on June 26, 1991, that a handful of outsider art collectors invited people to a public meeting to present a proposal to create an association devoted to outsider and intuitive art. We were pleasantly surprised when nearly 80 people showed up. The meeting confirmed our conviction that Chicago should have such an association and challenged us to move forward building a more formal organization. In almost no time, we incorporated as a nonprofit under the name Society for Outsider, Intuitive and Visionary Art (notice that intuitive was always part of our lexicon), adopted a set of bylaws, elected 22 board members, organized 8 committees and collected more than $6,000—all by September 6. Not skipping a beat, in our first 10 months we held two exhibitions, a fundraiser and a three-part slide/lecture presentation. We also put out our first newsletter, changed our name to Intuit and created a Web site: art.org. Mind you, we did all this without a permanent space. We were nomads, holding exhibits in various free locations.

2 The Outside r

In 1993, we had our first board retreat. Our three-year plan called for establishing a permanent space, a corps of volunteers, a more diverse board, insurance coverage, an annual operating budget, a quarterly newsletter, a video documentary, a library with publishing service, membership of 1,500, and more sources of earned and unearned income, including a gift shop, coffee house and thrift store. We also optimistically thought we could raise $500,000 annually from individual patrons, an endowment and foundation grants. Despite the cash flow and economic challenges the nonprofit community faces today, Intuit is in a good place as we look to our 20th anniversary. We have a gorgeous magazine that, while not self-sustaining, is the only magazine devoted to this genre. We have a permanent installation of the Henry Darger Room Collection, and we have a staff and board that are up to the challenges that lie ahead. We also have some things many similar organizations don’t have: a permanent home, a collection, an acclaimed education program—and some of the most exciting exhibits in the country.

For nearly 20 years, Intuit was one of the few art collections in the city without an admission fee, instead drawing its financial support largely from private donations and foundation grants. In order to continue our mission, Intuit found it necessary to adopt this nominal admission fee.

R EAD, VIEW, LEA RN Thanks to the generosity of several donors, Intuit’s Robert A. Roth Study Center, a non-circulating collection with a primary focus in the fields of outsider and contemporary self-taught art, continues to expand its holdings. From rare and hard-to-find books, including Bildnerei der Geistrskranken, Insania Pingens, with an introduction by Jean Cocteau, and Bilder Nach Bildern, to catalogs, periodicals, slides, photographs, documentary films, and archive materials, this public resource complements Intuit’s educational mission. If you are downsizing or have duplicates, please consider gifting books and other reference materials to Intuit.

SUP ER SALE Speaking of culling through your belongings, on a Saturday in May, scores of women, and some men, visited Intuit with one goal in mind: shopping at Intuit’s Closet Clearance Sale. Organized by one of Intuit’s founding board members, Susann Craig, the sale featured gently

used women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, hats, scarves, purses and accessories— and even a mink coat. For two weeks prior to the sale, Susann and a crew of volunteers sorted and tagged each piece. On sale day, a steady stream of shoppers walked away happy. One woman who had seen the mink coat a day earlier was ready and pounced on it. She wound up with a beautiful coat and Intuit gained $500. By the end of the day, to our delight, the sale brought in more than $6,000. The only expense was about $300 for hangers and coat racks. Everybody won. Susann was so happy that she is already planning next year’s sale. Your organization can do it too. Clean out those closets. Get friends together to tag merchandise, and then get the word out via flyers and e-mails. And don’t forget to give receipts for the donated merchandise. If you need help, let us know. Call 312.243.9088 or e-mail Intuit@art.org.

BASH A ND BA RBEQ UE Plan on wearing red when you join friends for Intuit’s benefit bash, ARToberfest: Beer, Barbeque & Bourbon on Saturday October 2. The evening will include ribs and chicken provided by Sweet Baby Ray’s, a beer sampling and a bourbon cocktail bar. The silent auction will feature fleamarket finds and affordable luxury items. Tables of 10 are $1,000. To reserve your table or for more information, contact Intuit at 312.243.9088 or intuit@art.org.

2010 I NTU IT SHOW Bringing together the creative forces of Intuit, the nation’s finest dealers of folk and self-taught art, and preeminent event producer Mark Lyman—producer of SOFA Chicago, New York and Santa Fe—this year’s show is sure to be a hit! Kicking

Intuit’s 12-day European Study Tour this spring included a visit to Bern, Switzerland. This museum sign depicts Waldau psychiatric clinic’s most famous patient, Adolf Wölfli. Photo: Cleo Wilson

off Thursday November 4 with First Look and continuing through Sunday November 7 at Chicago’s Navy Pier, we promise educational programs, collection tours and special Chicago fêtes. While you’re here, plan on stopping by Intuit to see Forget Me NOT, an exhibit featuring portraits by the itinerant 20th Century painters Ammi Phillips and William Matthew Prior as well as William Hawkins, C.J. Pyles and more.

TR EAS UR ES OF I NTU IT In celebration of our upcoming 20th anniversary, Intuit has entered an agreement with Roger Manley, photographer, folklorist, curator, author and director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University, to curate an exhibition from Intuit’s Permanent Collection of 1,100 works of art. Presenting selections chosen from Intuit’s holdings as well as from promised gifts, The Architecture of Hope—The Treasures of Intuit will explore a range of inspired responses to challenges faced by self-taught artists. According to Manley, “The theme not only hints at how self-taught artists often depict or create structures (and, in some cases, whole

environments and imaginary worlds) in order to transform life’s challenges into opportunities for artistic invention, but it also serves as a metaphor for Intuit as an organization entering its third decade as an internationally recognized center for selftaught art and creative expression.” The Architecture of Hope opens January 21 and runs through May 14, 2011. To stay abreast of upcoming exhibitions and education programming, please visit us at www.art.org and sign up to be on the mailing list.

PL E A S E J O IN U S Your membership in Intuit is a wonderful source of unrestricted support. If you have let your membership lapse or you are not a member, I urge you to join. Nowhere else will you find a group of people whose sole mission is to promote the appreciation for, and understanding of, outsider, intuitive and visionary art. You can join, renew or make a contribution simply by going to www.art.org.

– Cleo Wil son, Execu ti ve Di rector

The Outsider 3


What’s Happening at Intuit CH-CHA NGES Effective June 1, Intuit instituted a gallery admission fee of $5 for non-members. Admission will remain free to members and children under 12 as well as to openings of all exhibitions and to gallery talks and lectures. Admission for school and adult groups is made by arrangement.

In February, an opening night reception for the traveling exhibit The Treasure of Ulysses Davis attracted a crowd eager to ogle more than 100 pieces by the sculptor. Photo: Cheri Eisenberg

Intuit recently marked its 19th anniversary. It was on June 26, 1991, that a handful of outsider art collectors invited people to a public meeting to present a proposal to create an association devoted to outsider and intuitive art. We were pleasantly surprised when nearly 80 people showed up. The meeting confirmed our conviction that Chicago should have such an association and challenged us to move forward building a more formal organization. In almost no time, we incorporated as a nonprofit under the name Society for Outsider, Intuitive and Visionary Art (notice that intuitive was always part of our lexicon), adopted a set of bylaws, elected 22 board members, organized 8 committees and collected more than $6,000—all by September 6. Not skipping a beat, in our first 10 months we held two exhibitions, a fundraiser and a three-part slide/lecture presentation. We also put out our first newsletter, changed our name to Intuit and created a Web site: art.org. Mind you, we did all this without a permanent space. We were nomads, holding exhibits in various free locations.

2 The Outside r

In 1993, we had our first board retreat. Our three-year plan called for establishing a permanent space, a corps of volunteers, a more diverse board, insurance coverage, an annual operating budget, a quarterly newsletter, a video documentary, a library with publishing service, membership of 1,500, and more sources of earned and unearned income, including a gift shop, coffee house and thrift store. We also optimistically thought we could raise $500,000 annually from individual patrons, an endowment and foundation grants. Despite the cash flow and economic challenges the nonprofit community faces today, Intuit is in a good place as we look to our 20th anniversary. We have a gorgeous magazine that, while not self-sustaining, is the only magazine devoted to this genre. We have a permanent installation of the Henry Darger Room Collection, and we have a staff and board that are up to the challenges that lie ahead. We also have some things many similar organizations don’t have: a permanent home, a collection, an acclaimed education program—and some of the most exciting exhibits in the country.

For nearly 20 years, Intuit was one of the few art collections in the city without an admission fee, instead drawing its financial support largely from private donations and foundation grants. In order to continue our mission, Intuit found it necessary to adopt this nominal admission fee.

R EAD, VIEW, LEA RN Thanks to the generosity of several donors, Intuit’s Robert A. Roth Study Center, a non-circulating collection with a primary focus in the fields of outsider and contemporary self-taught art, continues to expand its holdings. From rare and hard-to-find books, including Bildnerei der Geistrskranken, Insania Pingens, with an introduction by Jean Cocteau, and Bilder Nach Bildern, to catalogs, periodicals, slides, photographs, documentary films, and archive materials, this public resource complements Intuit’s educational mission. If you are downsizing or have duplicates, please consider gifting books and other reference materials to Intuit.

SUP ER SALE Speaking of culling through your belongings, on a Saturday in May, scores of women, and some men, visited Intuit with one goal in mind: shopping at Intuit’s Closet Clearance Sale. Organized by one of Intuit’s founding board members, Susann Craig, the sale featured gently

used women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, hats, scarves, purses and accessories— and even a mink coat. For two weeks prior to the sale, Susann and a crew of volunteers sorted and tagged each piece. On sale day, a steady stream of shoppers walked away happy. One woman who had seen the mink coat a day earlier was ready and pounced on it. She wound up with a beautiful coat and Intuit gained $500. By the end of the day, to our delight, the sale brought in more than $6,000. The only expense was about $300 for hangers and coat racks. Everybody won. Susann was so happy that she is already planning next year’s sale. Your organization can do it too. Clean out those closets. Get friends together to tag merchandise, and then get the word out via flyers and e-mails. And don’t forget to give receipts for the donated merchandise. If you need help, let us know. Call 312.243.9088 or e-mail Intuit@art.org.

BASH A ND BA RBEQ UE Plan on wearing red when you join friends for Intuit’s benefit bash, ARToberfest: Beer, Barbeque & Bourbon on Saturday October 2. The evening will include ribs and chicken provided by Sweet Baby Ray’s, a beer sampling and a bourbon cocktail bar. The silent auction will feature fleamarket finds and affordable luxury items. Tables of 10 are $1,000. To reserve your table or for more information, contact Intuit at 312.243.9088 or intuit@art.org.

2010 I NTU IT SHOW Bringing together the creative forces of Intuit, the nation’s finest dealers of folk and self-taught art, and preeminent event producer Mark Lyman—producer of SOFA Chicago, New York and Santa Fe—this year’s show is sure to be a hit! Kicking

Intuit’s 12-day European Study Tour this spring included a visit to Bern, Switzerland. This museum sign depicts Waldau psychiatric clinic’s most famous patient, Adolf Wölfli. Photo: Cleo Wilson

off Thursday November 4 with First Look and continuing through Sunday November 7 at Chicago’s Navy Pier, we promise educational programs, collection tours and special Chicago fêtes. While you’re here, plan on stopping by Intuit to see Forget Me NOT, an exhibit featuring portraits by the itinerant 20th Century painters Ammi Phillips and William Matthew Prior as well as William Hawkins, C.J. Pyles and more.

TR EAS UR ES OF I NTU IT In celebration of our upcoming 20th anniversary, Intuit has entered an agreement with Roger Manley, photographer, folklorist, curator, author and director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University, to curate an exhibition from Intuit’s Permanent Collection of 1,100 works of art. Presenting selections chosen from Intuit’s holdings as well as from promised gifts, The Architecture of Hope—The Treasures of Intuit will explore a range of inspired responses to challenges faced by self-taught artists. According to Manley, “The theme not only hints at how self-taught artists often depict or create structures (and, in some cases, whole

environments and imaginary worlds) in order to transform life’s challenges into opportunities for artistic invention, but it also serves as a metaphor for Intuit as an organization entering its third decade as an internationally recognized center for selftaught art and creative expression.” The Architecture of Hope opens January 21 and runs through May 14, 2011. To stay abreast of upcoming exhibitions and education programming, please visit us at www.art.org and sign up to be on the mailing list.

PL E A S E J O IN U S Your membership in Intuit is a wonderful source of unrestricted support. If you have let your membership lapse or you are not a member, I urge you to join. Nowhere else will you find a group of people whose sole mission is to promote the appreciation for, and understanding of, outsider, intuitive and visionary art. You can join, renew or make a contribution simply by going to www.art.org.

– Cleo Wil son, Execu ti ve Di rector

The Outsider 3


African-American Work Clothes Quilt 74"h x 59"w c. 1940 denim and cotton alabama

WITH

PRESENTED AT NAVY PIER SOFA CHICAGO 2010

NOVEMBER

5-7CHICAGO

tel 248 540 9288

www.hillgallery.com

info@hillgallery.com

NAVY PIER

OUTSIDERFOLKARTFAIR.COM produced by:


African-American Work Clothes Quilt 74"h x 59"w c. 1940 denim and cotton alabama

WITH

PRESENTED AT NAVY PIER SOFA CHICAGO 2010

NOVEMBER

5-7CHICAGO

tel 248 540 9288

www.hillgallery.com

info@hillgallery.com

NAVY PIER

OUTSIDERFOLKARTFAIR.COM produced by:


Newly Released Sketches by

A.G. Rizzoli

Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair November 5-7 Navy Pier Opening Night Thursday, November 4

SOFA welcomes the Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art! 1 Ticket 2 Fairs 3 Days of Discovery!

Steen Ipsen, Lacoste Gallery

­Details­shown­above­are­from­larger­11­x­8.5­drawings­by­A.G.­Rizzolli

Early­ handmade­ Americana­ including­ articulated­ figures,­ carvings,­ tramp­ art,­ tintypes­ and­ vintage­­ photos.­ Works­ by­ contemporary­ visionary,­ self-taught­ and­ outsider­ artists­ including­ Ursula­ Barnes,­ Jim­ Bauer,­ Ted­ Gordon,­ Dwight­ Mackintosh,­ Alex­ Maldonado,­ A.G.­ Rizzoli,­ Barry­ Simons,­ and­ others.­

www.amesgallery.com

Bonnie­ Grossman,­ Director­ ­ n­ ­ 2661­ Cedar­ St.,­ Berkeley,­ California­ 94708­ ­ n­ ­ 510/845-4949­­

Produced by The Art Fair Company, Inc. Special thanks to:

Become a fan


Newly Released Sketches by

A.G. Rizzoli

Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair November 5-7 Navy Pier Opening Night Thursday, November 4

SOFA welcomes the Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art! 1 Ticket 2 Fairs 3 Days of Discovery!

Steen Ipsen, Lacoste Gallery

­Details­shown­above­are­from­larger­11­x­8.5­drawings­by­A.G.­Rizzolli

Early­ handmade­ Americana­ including­ articulated­ figures,­ carvings,­ tramp­ art,­ tintypes­ and­ vintage­­ photos.­ Works­ by­ contemporary­ visionary,­ self-taught­ and­ outsider­ artists­ including­ Ursula­ Barnes,­ Jim­ Bauer,­ Ted­ Gordon,­ Dwight­ Mackintosh,­ Alex­ Maldonado,­ A.G.­ Rizzoli,­ Barry­ Simons,­ and­ others.­

www.amesgallery.com

Bonnie­ Grossman,­ Director­ ­ n­ ­ 2661­ Cedar­ St.,­ Berkeley,­ California­ 94708­ ­ n­ ­ 510/845-4949­­

Produced by The Art Fair Company, Inc. Special thanks to:

Become a fan


sanford smith’s 19th annual

AT T H E I N T U I T S H O W N o v em b e r 5 – 7 N av y Pie r ’ s Festiva l Hal l Chicag o

NEW DATES

february 11 - 13 outs i der v is io nary

W O R K S BY

friday 11am - 8pm saturday 11am - 7pm sunday 11am - 6pm

S T E P H E N A N D ER S O N E D D I E AR N I N G T H O R N T O N D I AL

$20 admission café catalog

MI N N I E EVA N S H O WAR D F I N S T ER Q U ILT S O F G E E ’ S B E N D LEE GODIE

7 west 34th street

S .L . J O N E S

5th avenue, nyc

G E RTR U D E MO RG A N

in tu itive

S I MO N S PARR O W CH ARL E S S T E F F E N

opening night preview

E D G AR T O L S O N

thursday february 10, 6 - 9pm

sel f-taugh t

M O S E T OLLI V E R

$50 includes one readmission

Bi l l T ray l o r J O S E P H Y O A K UM

american folk art museum outsider art week information: 212.265.1040 x 102

art b rut

C ARL O Z I N ELL I DONALD MITCHELL UNTITLED, 2009

R U S S E L L B O W M A N A RT A D V I S O RY 311 WEST SUPERIOR, SUITE 115

sanford l. smith & associates

212.777.5218

www.sanfordsmith.com

CHICAGO, IL 60654 312 75 1 - 9 5 0 0 FA X 3 1 2 7 5 1 - 9 5 7 2 W W W.B O WMA N ART. C O M


sanford smith’s 19th annual

AT T H E I N T U I T S H O W N o v em b e r 5 – 7 N av y Pie r ’ s Festiva l Hal l Chicag o

NEW DATES

february 11 - 13 outs i der v is io nary

W O R K S BY

friday 11am - 8pm saturday 11am - 7pm sunday 11am - 6pm

S T E P H E N A N D ER S O N E D D I E AR N I N G T H O R N T O N D I AL

$20 admission café catalog

MI N N I E EVA N S H O WAR D F I N S T ER Q U ILT S O F G E E ’ S B E N D LEE GODIE

7 west 34th street

S .L . J O N E S

5th avenue, nyc

G E RTR U D E MO RG A N

in tu itive

S I MO N S PARR O W CH ARL E S S T E F F E N

opening night preview

E D G AR T O L S O N

thursday february 10, 6 - 9pm

sel f-taugh t

M O S E T OLLI V E R

$50 includes one readmission

Bi l l T ray l o r J O S E P H Y O A K UM

american folk art museum outsider art week information: 212.265.1040 x 102

art b rut

C ARL O Z I N ELL I DONALD MITCHELL UNTITLED, 2009

R U S S E L L B O W M A N A RT A D V I S O RY 311 WEST SUPERIOR, SUITE 115

sanford l. smith & associates

212.777.5218

www.sanfordsmith.com

CHICAGO, IL 60654 312 75 1 - 9 5 0 0 FA X 3 1 2 7 5 1 - 9 5 7 2 W W W.B O WMA N ART. C O M


RM Intuit_Widener ad_Layout 1 8/11/10 4:52 PM Page 1

Blue Monday Reversal c. 2010 Mixed media on paper 44 x 80 inches Photo: Michael Korol

JUDY A SASLOW GALLERY CELEBRATING 15 FABULOUS YEARS

NOVEMBER 18–JANUARY 2, 2011

GEORGE WIDENER

Bill Traylor

Edmond Engel

Michel Nedjar

529 W EST 20TH STR EE T

WWW.RICCOMARESCA.COM

N EW Y OR K CI TY 10011 212 627 4819

Visit our booth

Christine Sefolosha

François Burland

Mr. Imagination

at the I ntuit Show

M a r g a r e t Bo d e l l N YC Lee Godie

umbrellaarts.co m

August Walla

Carlo Zinelli

Our gallery has an unwavering commitment to American and International outsider and contemporary art. Special thanks to all of our supporters and artists!

outsider • folk • contemporary Vito Bonanno, Luis the rat , mixed media 2010 Facebook.com/vitobonanno83 Twitter:@Vito_Bonanno

300 W. Superior Chicago, IL 60654 312 943 0530 fax 312 943 3970 jsaslow@corecomm.net Tuesday – Friday 11 to 6 Saturday 11 to 5 View more images at: www.jsaslowgallery.com Member Art Dealers Association of Chicago


RM Intuit_Widener ad_Layout 1 8/11/10 4:52 PM Page 1

Blue Monday Reversal c. 2010 Mixed media on paper 44 x 80 inches Photo: Michael Korol

JUDY A SASLOW GALLERY CELEBRATING 15 FABULOUS YEARS

NOVEMBER 18–JANUARY 2, 2011

GEORGE WIDENER

Bill Traylor

Edmond Engel

Michel Nedjar

529 W EST 20TH STR EE T

WWW.RICCOMARESCA.COM

N EW Y OR K CI TY 10011 212 627 4819

Visit our booth

Christine Sefolosha

François Burland

Mr. Imagination

at the I ntuit Show

M a r g a r e t Bo d e l l N YC Lee Godie

umbrellaarts.co m

August Walla

Carlo Zinelli

Our gallery has an unwavering commitment to American and International outsider and contemporary art. Special thanks to all of our supporters and artists!

outsider • folk • contemporary Vito Bonanno, Luis the rat , mixed media 2010 Facebook.com/vitobonanno83 Twitter:@Vito_Bonanno

300 W. Superior Chicago, IL 60654 312 943 0530 fax 312 943 3970 jsaslow@corecomm.net Tuesday – Friday 11 to 6 Saturday 11 to 5 View more images at: www.jsaslowgallery.com Member Art Dealers Association of Chicago


Portraits of others Forget Me NOT offers insight into faces on a canvas—and also reflects ourselves and the society we inhabit By A my M . Mo o n e y

As a venerable tradition, the practice of portraiture is charged with expectations of the artist, the subject and the audience. We look to the portrait to commemorate and heroicize the sitter, extending relationships beyond the constraints of time, place or mortality. At the very least, viewers expect the portrait to present a physical likeness of a specific individual; more frequently, they are searching for a deeper insight into the sitter’s psyche. Artists have long relied upon audience’s familiarity with pictorial conventions to render interior states of mind visible. Through prop and pose, viewers learn to associate nebulous character traits with a given likeness, creating images that represent both the self and the society in which the subject lives.

Drossos P. Skyllas (1912–1973), Girl with Cat, c. 1955. Oil on canvas, 33 x 26 in., Milwaukee Art Museum, The Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art

The Ou tsider 13


Portraits of others Forget Me NOT offers insight into faces on a canvas—and also reflects ourselves and the society we inhabit By A my M . Mo o n e y

As a venerable tradition, the practice of portraiture is charged with expectations of the artist, the subject and the audience. We look to the portrait to commemorate and heroicize the sitter, extending relationships beyond the constraints of time, place or mortality. At the very least, viewers expect the portrait to present a physical likeness of a specific individual; more frequently, they are searching for a deeper insight into the sitter’s psyche. Artists have long relied upon audience’s familiarity with pictorial conventions to render interior states of mind visible. Through prop and pose, viewers learn to associate nebulous character traits with a given likeness, creating images that represent both the self and the society in which the subject lives.

Drossos P. Skyllas (1912–1973), Girl with Cat, c. 1955. Oil on canvas, 33 x 26 in., Milwaukee Art Museum, The Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art

The Ou tsider 13


One of the key determinants of an artist being considered an “outsider” is his or her assumed unawareness or eschewing of artistic precedents. The appropriations of painter William Hawkins (1895-1990), however, counter such notions by demonstrating the artist’s keen indebtedness to visual culture. Inspired by iconic images such as John James Barralet’s Apotheosis of Washington (c. 1800), Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (1495-98) and Phillips’ Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog (1830-1835), Hawkins situated himself squarely within the art historical canon.4

William Matthew Prior (1806–1873), Double Portrait of Mary Cary and Susan Elizabeth Johnson, 1848. Oil on board mounted on panel, 17 1/4 x 23 3/16 in., Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago

As Jan Petry, the curator of the Intuit exhibition Forget me NOT (September 10-December 30, 2010), attests, many of the works in the show simultaneously confirm and challenge these expectations. The 75 portraits culled from both private and public collections support an in-depth survey of the pictorial language of the portrait, demonstrating a continuous fascination with how we see ourselves and how others see us. In the early 19th Century, the “plain portrait” served as a form of nation building and was an indicator of social aspiration—on the part of both the sitter and the artist. Cultivating the demand for portraits done in “a very tasty style,” self-taught, itinerant limners such as Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) and William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) gained renown for depicting patrons in a formulaic manner. 1 The straightforward, wide gaze and frontal, symmetrical positioning seen in Prior’s Double Portrait of Mary Cary and Susan Elizabeth Johnson (1848) was widely emulated. Additionally, the 19th Century portraitist paid careful attention to costume and the inclusion of symbolic

objects, communicating the sitter’s status on multiple levels. In some cases a child dressed in red, a color then associated with mourning, conveyed their recent passing.2 Books, especially Bibles, not only indicated literacy but also served as an expression of a family’s prosperity and piety. The interaction between sitter and artist also contributed to the cultural and spiritual capital of the portrait. After Prior’s conversion in 1841 to Millerism, for example, the artist claimed that he had the power to see into the spirit world, which enabled him to truthfully paint posthumous portraits of children.3 As evident in the exhibition, similar conventions and relationships inform the approach of the contemporary portraitist. Yet unlike the early works, these later portraits were rarely commissioned by or retained by the sitter. Instead, they reflect a contemporary interest in the fluidity of identity. For many of the artists in the exhibition, the boundaries of race, class and gender are permeable, if not inconsequential. Alternate ways of seeing oneself and one’s relationship to society are offered, utilizing traditional means to create a far more diverse and inclusive consciousness.

attest to the malleable nature of identity. In effect, Godie’s depictions of herself extend to societal archetypes in which viewers may recognize their own desires for glamour and elite status. In Self Portrait (with chalice) (c. 1970s), the artist appraises a shining silver goblet, relying on the formality of a fedora and jacket adorned with two elaborate brooches to convey a level of opulence and sophistication that few would extend to an indigent artist. She further personifies this aspect of her character through an exaggerated extension of her pinky finger and an expression of self-satisfaction. The cameo brooch included on her jacket particularly links

Godie to the artistic tradition of an idealized self-presentation, becoming a sort of trademark that continually appears in her work. Godie used her photographs as cameos, attaching them to larger works both as a means of further adornment for the subject and, simultaneously, as her artistic signature.6 In other self-portraits, she holds a paint box, calling attention to the very means through which she transformed and connected herself and others. Portraits of others often serve as a segue between self and society. Evangelical visionary Howard Finster (1916-2001) portrayed preacher John Wesley, linking

his own spiritual calling with that of the legitimizing past. According to Finster, he connected with the founder of the Methodist movement when giving a lecture at a college where he saw a bronze statue of the leader and “could pick up his spirit.”7 The portrait commemorates and honors Wesley, listing his accomplishments as a “man of vision” and the dates of his birth and death. As in so many of Finster’s compositions, a Biblical inscription provides further insight on the subject. In this case, words from Luke 12:12, “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say,” guided both Wesley and Finster in their ministry.

Like Phillips, Hawkins depicted a single figure against a plain background, emphasizing the face, sitter’s costume and attributes (beloved pets, in this case). Yet, because of the highly personalized, painterly and expressive character of Hawkins’ version, it is difficult to focus on exactly which details he altered. The changes in the number of beaded necklaces or the shift from ruffled pantaloons to striped, as well as the addition of another pet, seem inconsequential. Hawkins’ interventions with the venerated past move beyond mere artistic license—he literally reframes it, allowing the figure to step out of its confines, forging a new relationship with the artist and his audience. His bold signature and inscription of his own date and place of birth shift the function of the portrait from a likeness of an anonymous 19th Century figure to a portrait of the artist. Through his rendition of this iconic work, the artist provides insight into his own psyche, influences and interests. Furthermore, the conspicuousness of his signature not only confirms his own identity, but also parodies the art world’s privileging of artistic individuality and authorship. Likewise, the revelatory self-portraits of Lee Godie (1908-1994) engage the artistic precedent of careful and calculated selection of costume, prop and pose. Utilizing the black and white photo booth, Godie constructed hundreds of images that Left: William Hawkins (1895–1990), The Girl in the Red Dress with Cats and Dogs, 1985. Enamel on masonite, 60 x 48 in., Collection of Robert M. Greenberg. Top Right: Lee Godie (1908–1994), Self Portrait (with chalice), 1970s. Photograph, 4 15/16 x 3 7/8 in., Syrek, Csicsko Family Collection. Lower Right: Stephen Warde Anderson (b. 1953), George Washington, c. 1980s. Tempera on canvas board, 10 x 7 1/2 in., Roger Brown Study Collection

14 T he Ou tsi d er

The Ou tsider 15


One of the key determinants of an artist being considered an “outsider” is his or her assumed unawareness or eschewing of artistic precedents. The appropriations of painter William Hawkins (1895-1990), however, counter such notions by demonstrating the artist’s keen indebtedness to visual culture. Inspired by iconic images such as John James Barralet’s Apotheosis of Washington (c. 1800), Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (1495-98) and Phillips’ Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog (1830-1835), Hawkins situated himself squarely within the art historical canon.4

William Matthew Prior (1806–1873), Double Portrait of Mary Cary and Susan Elizabeth Johnson, 1848. Oil on board mounted on panel, 17 1/4 x 23 3/16 in., Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago

As Jan Petry, the curator of the Intuit exhibition Forget me NOT (September 10-December 30, 2010), attests, many of the works in the show simultaneously confirm and challenge these expectations. The 75 portraits culled from both private and public collections support an in-depth survey of the pictorial language of the portrait, demonstrating a continuous fascination with how we see ourselves and how others see us. In the early 19th Century, the “plain portrait” served as a form of nation building and was an indicator of social aspiration—on the part of both the sitter and the artist. Cultivating the demand for portraits done in “a very tasty style,” self-taught, itinerant limners such as Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) and William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) gained renown for depicting patrons in a formulaic manner. 1 The straightforward, wide gaze and frontal, symmetrical positioning seen in Prior’s Double Portrait of Mary Cary and Susan Elizabeth Johnson (1848) was widely emulated. Additionally, the 19th Century portraitist paid careful attention to costume and the inclusion of symbolic

objects, communicating the sitter’s status on multiple levels. In some cases a child dressed in red, a color then associated with mourning, conveyed their recent passing.2 Books, especially Bibles, not only indicated literacy but also served as an expression of a family’s prosperity and piety. The interaction between sitter and artist also contributed to the cultural and spiritual capital of the portrait. After Prior’s conversion in 1841 to Millerism, for example, the artist claimed that he had the power to see into the spirit world, which enabled him to truthfully paint posthumous portraits of children.3 As evident in the exhibition, similar conventions and relationships inform the approach of the contemporary portraitist. Yet unlike the early works, these later portraits were rarely commissioned by or retained by the sitter. Instead, they reflect a contemporary interest in the fluidity of identity. For many of the artists in the exhibition, the boundaries of race, class and gender are permeable, if not inconsequential. Alternate ways of seeing oneself and one’s relationship to society are offered, utilizing traditional means to create a far more diverse and inclusive consciousness.

attest to the malleable nature of identity. In effect, Godie’s depictions of herself extend to societal archetypes in which viewers may recognize their own desires for glamour and elite status. In Self Portrait (with chalice) (c. 1970s), the artist appraises a shining silver goblet, relying on the formality of a fedora and jacket adorned with two elaborate brooches to convey a level of opulence and sophistication that few would extend to an indigent artist. She further personifies this aspect of her character through an exaggerated extension of her pinky finger and an expression of self-satisfaction. The cameo brooch included on her jacket particularly links

Godie to the artistic tradition of an idealized self-presentation, becoming a sort of trademark that continually appears in her work. Godie used her photographs as cameos, attaching them to larger works both as a means of further adornment for the subject and, simultaneously, as her artistic signature.6 In other self-portraits, she holds a paint box, calling attention to the very means through which she transformed and connected herself and others. Portraits of others often serve as a segue between self and society. Evangelical visionary Howard Finster (1916-2001) portrayed preacher John Wesley, linking

his own spiritual calling with that of the legitimizing past. According to Finster, he connected with the founder of the Methodist movement when giving a lecture at a college where he saw a bronze statue of the leader and “could pick up his spirit.”7 The portrait commemorates and honors Wesley, listing his accomplishments as a “man of vision” and the dates of his birth and death. As in so many of Finster’s compositions, a Biblical inscription provides further insight on the subject. In this case, words from Luke 12:12, “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say,” guided both Wesley and Finster in their ministry.

Like Phillips, Hawkins depicted a single figure against a plain background, emphasizing the face, sitter’s costume and attributes (beloved pets, in this case). Yet, because of the highly personalized, painterly and expressive character of Hawkins’ version, it is difficult to focus on exactly which details he altered. The changes in the number of beaded necklaces or the shift from ruffled pantaloons to striped, as well as the addition of another pet, seem inconsequential. Hawkins’ interventions with the venerated past move beyond mere artistic license—he literally reframes it, allowing the figure to step out of its confines, forging a new relationship with the artist and his audience. His bold signature and inscription of his own date and place of birth shift the function of the portrait from a likeness of an anonymous 19th Century figure to a portrait of the artist. Through his rendition of this iconic work, the artist provides insight into his own psyche, influences and interests. Furthermore, the conspicuousness of his signature not only confirms his own identity, but also parodies the art world’s privileging of artistic individuality and authorship. Likewise, the revelatory self-portraits of Lee Godie (1908-1994) engage the artistic precedent of careful and calculated selection of costume, prop and pose. Utilizing the black and white photo booth, Godie constructed hundreds of images that Left: William Hawkins (1895–1990), The Girl in the Red Dress with Cats and Dogs, 1985. Enamel on masonite, 60 x 48 in., Collection of Robert M. Greenberg. Top Right: Lee Godie (1908–1994), Self Portrait (with chalice), 1970s. Photograph, 4 15/16 x 3 7/8 in., Syrek, Csicsko Family Collection. Lower Right: Stephen Warde Anderson (b. 1953), George Washington, c. 1980s. Tempera on canvas board, 10 x 7 1/2 in., Roger Brown Study Collection

14 T he Ou tsi d er

The Ou tsider 15


Left: Elijah Pierce (1892–1984). President Carter and His Sister, 1976. Wood, carved and painted, varnish, 17 1/2 x 14 in., Mike and Cindy Noland Right: Howard Finster (1915–2001), John Wesley, n.d. Oil on burlap, 32 x 33 in., Collection of Judith and Patrick Blackburn

Inspiration also is drawn from portraits of heroic figures from the past. In his portrait of George Washington (n.d.), Stephen Warde Anderson (b. 1953) depicts the founding father in a romanticized pose, wearing a military costume and brandishing his sword. Flanked by cherry trees against a background of blue sky and Mount Vernon, Washington embodies the legend that is central to American national identity. According to the artist, his portrait illustrates the ways that “legend persist [sic] more than the truth, but only because there is a truth in it, a truth that a legend tells about those who preserve it.”8 For Anderson, an ex-Navy quartermaster, portraits of Washington speak eloquently about the unique place the American presidency occupies in the national consciousness. Because portraits of presidents are simultaneously representations of individual and collective identity, they can be used to raise awareness of pressing political concerns. When Elijah Pierce (18921984) carved his tribute to Jimmy Carter in 1976, he not only commemorated the

16 T he Ou tsider

election of the 39th president in a very personal manner, but also continued his tribute to presidents who made significant contributions to civil rights. Carter first gained national attention for his commitment to social equality in 1970, declaring: “The time for racial discrimination is over. … No poor, rural, weak or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job or simple justice.” Following the president’s mandate for social equality, Pierce transformed a snapshot of Carter with his sister Ruth Stapleton into a relief carving, emphasizing the president’s toothy grin as a sign of his accessible and personable nature. Ike Morgan (b. 1958) has obsessively painted portraits of presidents for nearly 30 years. Inspired by images from popular culture, such as Shepard Fairey’s ubiquitous Hope poster from the 2008 presidential election campaign, Morgan transformed this iconic image into a far more emotive and psychologically probing portrayal. Through his characteristic psychedelic palette and expressive

brushwork, Morgan paints President Barack Obama as the harbinger of a color-blind world where the power of selfdetermination can be realized. Perhaps, similarly, the portraits in Forget Me NOT will determine the extent to which we empathize with and see ourselves in portraits of others. n Amy M. Mooney, PhD, is an associate professor of art history, critical theory & visual culture at Columbia College Chicago. John Vlach quoting an advertisement posted by Prior, Plain Painters: Making Sense of American Folk Art. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institute Press, 1989: 82. 2 Ibid., 76. 3 Clara Endicott Sears, Some American Primitives: A Study of New England Faces and Folk Portraits (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1941): 39. 4 Ammi Phillips painted several variations of this painting. Hawkins was inspired by the work in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. For the exhibition, the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago generously loaned its version “Girl in a Red Dress.” In this painting, the child does not embrace a cat; rather, she holds strawberries, symbolic of the future and abundance. 5 Joanne Cubbs and Eugene W. Metcalf, “William Hawkins and the Art of Astonishment,” Folk Art (Fall 1997): 65. 6 See Jessica Moss, Finding Beauty: The Art of Lee Godie. Chicago: Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, 2008, n.p. (3). 7 Oral History Interview with Howard Finster, 1984 June 11, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 8 Stephen Warde Anderson, Musings, Essays, and Aphorisms. Published as an ebook on lulu.com (2007): 132. 9 Quoted in Elijah Pierce Woodcarver, Norma Roberts, ed. Columbus, OH: Columbus Museum of Art (1992): 191. 1

Ike Morgan (b. 1958), Barack Obama, 2009. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 in. Courtesy Webb Gallery, Waxahachie


Left: Elijah Pierce (1892–1984). President Carter and His Sister, 1976. Wood, carved and painted, varnish, 17 1/2 x 14 in., Mike and Cindy Noland Right: Howard Finster (1915–2001), John Wesley, n.d. Oil on burlap, 32 x 33 in., Collection of Judith and Patrick Blackburn

Inspiration also is drawn from portraits of heroic figures from the past. In his portrait of George Washington (n.d.), Stephen Warde Anderson (b. 1953) depicts the founding father in a romanticized pose, wearing a military costume and brandishing his sword. Flanked by cherry trees against a background of blue sky and Mount Vernon, Washington embodies the legend that is central to American national identity. According to the artist, his portrait illustrates the ways that “legend persist [sic] more than the truth, but only because there is a truth in it, a truth that a legend tells about those who preserve it.”8 For Anderson, an ex-Navy quartermaster, portraits of Washington speak eloquently about the unique place the American presidency occupies in the national consciousness. Because portraits of presidents are simultaneously representations of individual and collective identity, they can be used to raise awareness of pressing political concerns. When Elijah Pierce (18921984) carved his tribute to Jimmy Carter in 1976, he not only commemorated the

16 T he Ou tsider

election of the 39th president in a very personal manner, but also continued his tribute to presidents who made significant contributions to civil rights. Carter first gained national attention for his commitment to social equality in 1970, declaring: “The time for racial discrimination is over. … No poor, rural, weak or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job or simple justice.” Following the president’s mandate for social equality, Pierce transformed a snapshot of Carter with his sister Ruth Stapleton into a relief carving, emphasizing the president’s toothy grin as a sign of his accessible and personable nature. Ike Morgan (b. 1958) has obsessively painted portraits of presidents for nearly 30 years. Inspired by images from popular culture, such as Shepard Fairey’s ubiquitous Hope poster from the 2008 presidential election campaign, Morgan transformed this iconic image into a far more emotive and psychologically probing portrayal. Through his characteristic psychedelic palette and expressive

brushwork, Morgan paints President Barack Obama as the harbinger of a color-blind world where the power of selfdetermination can be realized. Perhaps, similarly, the portraits in Forget Me NOT will determine the extent to which we empathize with and see ourselves in portraits of others. n Amy M. Mooney, PhD, is an associate professor of art history, critical theory & visual culture at Columbia College Chicago. John Vlach quoting an advertisement posted by Prior, Plain Painters: Making Sense of American Folk Art. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institute Press, 1989: 82. 2 Ibid., 76. 3 Clara Endicott Sears, Some American Primitives: A Study of New England Faces and Folk Portraits (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1941): 39. 4 Ammi Phillips painted several variations of this painting. Hawkins was inspired by the work in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. For the exhibition, the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago generously loaned its version “Girl in a Red Dress.” In this painting, the child does not embrace a cat; rather, she holds strawberries, symbolic of the future and abundance. 5 Joanne Cubbs and Eugene W. Metcalf, “William Hawkins and the Art of Astonishment,” Folk Art (Fall 1997): 65. 6 See Jessica Moss, Finding Beauty: The Art of Lee Godie. Chicago: Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, 2008, n.p. (3). 7 Oral History Interview with Howard Finster, 1984 June 11, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 8 Stephen Warde Anderson, Musings, Essays, and Aphorisms. Published as an ebook on lulu.com (2007): 132. 9 Quoted in Elijah Pierce Woodcarver, Norma Roberts, ed. Columbus, OH: Columbus Museum of Art (1992): 191. 1

Ike Morgan (b. 1958), Barack Obama, 2009. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 in. Courtesy Webb Gallery, Waxahachie


Small but mighty How ‘littleness’ takes on epic proportions in the art of Henry Darger By Le i sa R u n dq u ist

“Although, dear readers, in this big story, boys and men play usual and principal parts in the dreadful battles…the reason the story runs so much with little girls as the actual heroes in this warfare is because, under most circumstances, women are braver than men… “Of course, little girls and women have been seen to be a little nervous about small matters, like being frightened at a mouse or a spider, but not in all cases. I have known women who would, even bare-handed, catch a mouse. Also in the presence of real danger, when shells are bursting in the battlefield and shell fragments flying thickly, they have been known to be standing in the open field, looking for wounded to be brought in. “What historian has not written in good and lengthy details of the heroism of the Red Cross Nurses and Sisters and other brave women? How about the play known as “The Little Rebel?” Was not she braver than the soldiers in that play? “Above all, in patient endurance of pain and suffering and sorrow, all women were and are immeasureably (sic) superior to men, and women always make sacrifices that men would think of in horror.”

Henry Darger (1897-1972), After The Battle of Drowsabella /After Mr. Wirther Run/At Angeline Agatha (detail, right panel), n.d. Watercolor, gouache, black transfer carbon, graphite and collage of cut-and-pasted printed elements, with pen and black ink, on three sheets of cream wove paper, pieced at left and right edges, with attached inscriptions, 481 by 1,781 mm. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Nathan Lerner

The Ou tsider 19


Small but mighty How ‘littleness’ takes on epic proportions in the art of Henry Darger By Le i sa R u n dq u ist

“Although, dear readers, in this big story, boys and men play usual and principal parts in the dreadful battles…the reason the story runs so much with little girls as the actual heroes in this warfare is because, under most circumstances, women are braver than men… “Of course, little girls and women have been seen to be a little nervous about small matters, like being frightened at a mouse or a spider, but not in all cases. I have known women who would, even bare-handed, catch a mouse. Also in the presence of real danger, when shells are bursting in the battlefield and shell fragments flying thickly, they have been known to be standing in the open field, looking for wounded to be brought in. “What historian has not written in good and lengthy details of the heroism of the Red Cross Nurses and Sisters and other brave women? How about the play known as “The Little Rebel?” Was not she braver than the soldiers in that play? “Above all, in patient endurance of pain and suffering and sorrow, all women were and are immeasureably (sic) superior to men, and women always make sacrifices that men would think of in horror.”

Henry Darger (1897-1972), After The Battle of Drowsabella /After Mr. Wirther Run/At Angeline Agatha (detail, right panel), n.d. Watercolor, gouache, black transfer carbon, graphite and collage of cut-and-pasted printed elements, with pen and black ink, on three sheets of cream wove paper, pieced at left and right edges, with attached inscriptions, 481 by 1,781 mm. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Nathan Lerner

The Ou tsider 19


With these remarks, Henry Darger (18921973) explains his preference for heroines in his opus, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Moving from “small matters” of mice and spiders to “real dangers” of the battlefield, Darger expounds on the bravery of the female sex. Curiously, in this explanation he includes women, whom he largely omits from the rest of In the Realms of the Unreal’s narrative and imagery. Few adult women or mothers populate his tale, although they possess superior constitutions to those of men. Darger’s own mother died shortly after giving birth to his sister, who in turn was given up by his father for adoption. The orphan child and themes of motherless or broken families run throughout Darger’s collection of children’s literature, his stories and his personal history. Here, he specifically draws upon the pious character nicknamed the “Little Rebel.” This heroine of Edward Peple’s play achieved widespread popularity through Shirley Temple’s portrayal in the major Hollywood production The Littlest Rebel (1935). Negotiating the trials of the Civil War, this spunky Confederate belle epitomizes fortitude and wholesomeness. Forced into a position of autonomy, motherless and temporarily orphaned by the imprisonment of her father, the 6-yearold Little Rebel takes matters into her own hands. In the story’s climax, she appeals to General Grant for the release of her father. Darger’s heroic example of the Little Rebel reflects an emerging pattern of self-sacrificing types that inform his reconception of girlhood. His fascination with this theme of little child redeemers and martyrs appears throughout his literary and visual source material and becomes increasingly magnified in his creations. Arguably, in his artistic worldview, Darger constructs a sense of littleness that denotes more than just a diminutive stature. Littleness expands through qualities of female virtue, courage and sacred dimensionality into epic proportions.

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Coupling the Vivians with St. Thérèse of Liseux in the piece captioned At Angeline Agatha. Jennie in vain offers her sight lost in an accident for the conversion of John Manley her worst enemy. Instead her sight suddenly came back, Darger further signals the significance of little ones. St. Thérèse of Liseux (French, 1873-1897, canonized 1925), the self-proclaimed “Little Flower of Christ,” is widely known and adored in the Catholic faith. Becoming a devout Carmelite nun after the death of her mother, she received acclaim due to her girlish innocence and humble inspirations (coined the little way and published in 1925 as part of an autobiography). The writings of the “Little Flower,” in comparison to Darger’s descriptions of the Vivians, read with a similar, highly sentimental, sticky sweet rhetoric (including an overuse of the adjective “little”) and an adolescent passion for Christ. Floral symbolism, St. Thérèse’s favored rhetorical device, resonates throughout her writings as metaphors for loving Jesus and embracing martyrdom:

not be dismissed as “Peter Pantheism,” or a refusal to grow up. Instead, her concepts express a practical dogma of re-creation and dependence upon God, the Father (often called “Papa” by St. Thérèse). The little way confirms Christ’s message in Matthew 18:3-4: “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

In sifting through the archives of the Henry Darger Room Collection, one becomes more and more aware of littleness, as in this 1966 Sears Roebuck advertisement for little girls playwear. Henry Darger Room Collection, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; a gift of Kiyoko Lerner.

“I understood how all the flowers He (Jesus) has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy… “And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden, He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at his feet…” (Boldface my emphasis) St. Thérèse’s floral metaphor urges one to remain little or childlike in order to please Christ and retain immunity from adult corruptive forces. Her short and holy life—she died in a convent at the young age of 22—represents what she espoused: an eternal spirit of girlhood describing dogmatic concepts in simple, childish terms of sunshine, blooming flowers and smiling Madonnas. Theologians, however, argue that St. Thérèse’s writings should

Darger’s interest in St. Thérèse is evidenced in this 1932 members brochure from Chicago’s Society of the Little Flower and the Confraternity of the Scapular. Henry Darger Room Collection, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; a gift of Kiyoko Lerner.

Darger demonstrates an awareness of the Little Flower’s message and exemplar role by including St. Thérèse’s recognizable presence in At Angeline Agatha… St. Thérèse’s holy card frames the upper left corner of Darger’s composition, fortifying a little way subtext with its companion piece: another holy card of Christ. Reading clearly as a conventional “heart of Jesus” motif, Christ opens his tunic to reveal a flaming and thorn-bound heart radiating light. Residing over the Vivian story unfolding before and beneath them, this powerful backdrop underscores the message of little girl virtue and sacrifice within the composition’s full caption: At Angeline Agatha. Jennie in vain offers her sight lost in an accident for the conversion of John Manley her worst enemy. Instead her sight suddenly came back. Offering up her ability to see for the good of the Christian cause, Jennie Vivian performs an act in accordance with those of confessor saints like St. Thérèse, desiring to give of herself in order to cleanse the sins of others. The Little Flower’s inclusion in At Angeline Agatha lends for erudite followers of Catholic faith a support structure of Christian virtue, self-sacrifice and hope. St. Thérèse’s presence contextualizes the Vivians within the little way of girl sainthood and popular philosophical belief exalting childhood as a redemptive force. In this context, Darger’s art responds, in part, to the tenor of the times, perhaps even to Pope Pius X’s declaration that “There will be saints among children!”

Two of the seven Vivian Girls have floral names: Violet Vivian and Daisy Vivian—the very humble flowers that St. Thérèse celebrates, those “destined to give joy to God’s glances.” During St. Thérèse’s and Darger’s lifetimes, violets and daisies held special significance in Victorian popular culture and in Catholic lore as emblems in “Mary Gardens.” Accordingly, flowers provided abundant source material for expressing gender characteristics and qualities upheld in bourgeois culture, deifying motherly nurture and feminine virtues attributed to the Virgin Mary. Standing for faithfulness, humility and chastity, violets appropriately capture Mary’s humble acceptance of her role. The daisy’s sweet simplicity symbolizes the innocence of the Christ Child and, according to legend, its star-like shape graced the entrance to the manger and pointed the wise men toward the Nativity. As Thérèse capitalizes on these associations, Darger, likewise, draws from floral symbolism to underscore Violet Vivian’s goodness as she explains her name: “I love all flowers but more so the beautiful Violets and Forget me nots … I always had the joy of finding huge clusters of the fragrant sweet smelling violets…which of course brought me to have the real name of Violet, for Violet is a meaning of humility.” Darger’s devotion to littleness expands beyond the little way’s many virtues and metaphors that St. Thérèse extols. Little, orphaned characters proliferate his collection of children’s literature and exemplify his standard for heroines. Take, for example, Dorothy in L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series, Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, Little Nell from Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop or Little Eva (Evangeline St. Clare) of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly. The importance of this abolitionist novel and Stowe’s girl protagonist permeates Darger’s Realms narrative and construction of the Vivians.He greatly favors Little Eva, whom he uses as a measuring stick for Christian love and morality in descriptions of his own Vivians. He writes:

“Of Violet, Joice, Jennie and Evangeline, their beauty could never be described...And no Evangeline St. Clare could beat them in their kind loving ways, and their love for God. They were always willing to do as they were told, keeping away from bad company and going to Mass and Holy Communion every day, and living the lives of little saints.” Little Eva, in fact, serves as such a strong analogue for the Vivians that Darger actually resurrects her character. He writes in Volume I: “‘Who are you little girl?’ asked general Roswell Buster Johnston…The child looked reproachfully at the generals, and said, ‘My name is Evangeline St. Clare, I have just escaped from the Glandelinians …’ ‘Sure you must have come from heaven.’ Said general Hanson. Did you not die from consumption?’ ‘I nearly did, though the story about me says I did. I did not die, but fainted when the sickness got at its worse.’ (BEG PARDON TO THE WRITER OF UNCLE TOM’S CABIN).” In a sense, Darger vivifies Little Eva. Eva shall live. Pause for a moment to consider the word “Vivian.” In particular, its prefix vivi-, meaning “to enliven,” “to animate,” aligns with notions of redemption and resurrection. Are such designated names intentional? Violet, Daisy, Vivian? Acknowledging these ideals, one can begin to see the little girl as a powerful, multivalent and formulaic abstraction blooming everywhere in Darger’s art. Modeling his little heroines after a bevy of rebellious, orphaned girls and virtuous female saints, Darger created little, humble ones destined to do wondrous deeds. “Whoever is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me.” Proverbs 9:4 n Leisa Rundquist, PhD, is an assistant professor of art history at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Note: For more on this topic, see Leisa Rundquist, “Little Ways: Girlhood According to Henry Darger” Southeastern College Art Conference Review, Volume XV, No. 4 (2009): 434-447. Available via the research database, Art Full Text.

The Outsider 21


With these remarks, Henry Darger (18921973) explains his preference for heroines in his opus, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Moving from “small matters” of mice and spiders to “real dangers” of the battlefield, Darger expounds on the bravery of the female sex. Curiously, in this explanation he includes women, whom he largely omits from the rest of In the Realms of the Unreal’s narrative and imagery. Few adult women or mothers populate his tale, although they possess superior constitutions to those of men. Darger’s own mother died shortly after giving birth to his sister, who in turn was given up by his father for adoption. The orphan child and themes of motherless or broken families run throughout Darger’s collection of children’s literature, his stories and his personal history. Here, he specifically draws upon the pious character nicknamed the “Little Rebel.” This heroine of Edward Peple’s play achieved widespread popularity through Shirley Temple’s portrayal in the major Hollywood production The Littlest Rebel (1935). Negotiating the trials of the Civil War, this spunky Confederate belle epitomizes fortitude and wholesomeness. Forced into a position of autonomy, motherless and temporarily orphaned by the imprisonment of her father, the 6-yearold Little Rebel takes matters into her own hands. In the story’s climax, she appeals to General Grant for the release of her father. Darger’s heroic example of the Little Rebel reflects an emerging pattern of self-sacrificing types that inform his reconception of girlhood. His fascination with this theme of little child redeemers and martyrs appears throughout his literary and visual source material and becomes increasingly magnified in his creations. Arguably, in his artistic worldview, Darger constructs a sense of littleness that denotes more than just a diminutive stature. Littleness expands through qualities of female virtue, courage and sacred dimensionality into epic proportions.

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Coupling the Vivians with St. Thérèse of Liseux in the piece captioned At Angeline Agatha. Jennie in vain offers her sight lost in an accident for the conversion of John Manley her worst enemy. Instead her sight suddenly came back, Darger further signals the significance of little ones. St. Thérèse of Liseux (French, 1873-1897, canonized 1925), the self-proclaimed “Little Flower of Christ,” is widely known and adored in the Catholic faith. Becoming a devout Carmelite nun after the death of her mother, she received acclaim due to her girlish innocence and humble inspirations (coined the little way and published in 1925 as part of an autobiography). The writings of the “Little Flower,” in comparison to Darger’s descriptions of the Vivians, read with a similar, highly sentimental, sticky sweet rhetoric (including an overuse of the adjective “little”) and an adolescent passion for Christ. Floral symbolism, St. Thérèse’s favored rhetorical device, resonates throughout her writings as metaphors for loving Jesus and embracing martyrdom:

not be dismissed as “Peter Pantheism,” or a refusal to grow up. Instead, her concepts express a practical dogma of re-creation and dependence upon God, the Father (often called “Papa” by St. Thérèse). The little way confirms Christ’s message in Matthew 18:3-4: “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

In sifting through the archives of the Henry Darger Room Collection, one becomes more and more aware of littleness, as in this 1966 Sears Roebuck advertisement for little girls playwear. Henry Darger Room Collection, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; a gift of Kiyoko Lerner.

“I understood how all the flowers He (Jesus) has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy… “And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden, He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at his feet…” (Boldface my emphasis) St. Thérèse’s floral metaphor urges one to remain little or childlike in order to please Christ and retain immunity from adult corruptive forces. Her short and holy life—she died in a convent at the young age of 22—represents what she espoused: an eternal spirit of girlhood describing dogmatic concepts in simple, childish terms of sunshine, blooming flowers and smiling Madonnas. Theologians, however, argue that St. Thérèse’s writings should

Darger’s interest in St. Thérèse is evidenced in this 1932 members brochure from Chicago’s Society of the Little Flower and the Confraternity of the Scapular. Henry Darger Room Collection, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; a gift of Kiyoko Lerner.

Darger demonstrates an awareness of the Little Flower’s message and exemplar role by including St. Thérèse’s recognizable presence in At Angeline Agatha… St. Thérèse’s holy card frames the upper left corner of Darger’s composition, fortifying a little way subtext with its companion piece: another holy card of Christ. Reading clearly as a conventional “heart of Jesus” motif, Christ opens his tunic to reveal a flaming and thorn-bound heart radiating light. Residing over the Vivian story unfolding before and beneath them, this powerful backdrop underscores the message of little girl virtue and sacrifice within the composition’s full caption: At Angeline Agatha. Jennie in vain offers her sight lost in an accident for the conversion of John Manley her worst enemy. Instead her sight suddenly came back. Offering up her ability to see for the good of the Christian cause, Jennie Vivian performs an act in accordance with those of confessor saints like St. Thérèse, desiring to give of herself in order to cleanse the sins of others. The Little Flower’s inclusion in At Angeline Agatha lends for erudite followers of Catholic faith a support structure of Christian virtue, self-sacrifice and hope. St. Thérèse’s presence contextualizes the Vivians within the little way of girl sainthood and popular philosophical belief exalting childhood as a redemptive force. In this context, Darger’s art responds, in part, to the tenor of the times, perhaps even to Pope Pius X’s declaration that “There will be saints among children!”

Two of the seven Vivian Girls have floral names: Violet Vivian and Daisy Vivian—the very humble flowers that St. Thérèse celebrates, those “destined to give joy to God’s glances.” During St. Thérèse’s and Darger’s lifetimes, violets and daisies held special significance in Victorian popular culture and in Catholic lore as emblems in “Mary Gardens.” Accordingly, flowers provided abundant source material for expressing gender characteristics and qualities upheld in bourgeois culture, deifying motherly nurture and feminine virtues attributed to the Virgin Mary. Standing for faithfulness, humility and chastity, violets appropriately capture Mary’s humble acceptance of her role. The daisy’s sweet simplicity symbolizes the innocence of the Christ Child and, according to legend, its star-like shape graced the entrance to the manger and pointed the wise men toward the Nativity. As Thérèse capitalizes on these associations, Darger, likewise, draws from floral symbolism to underscore Violet Vivian’s goodness as she explains her name: “I love all flowers but more so the beautiful Violets and Forget me nots … I always had the joy of finding huge clusters of the fragrant sweet smelling violets…which of course brought me to have the real name of Violet, for Violet is a meaning of humility.” Darger’s devotion to littleness expands beyond the little way’s many virtues and metaphors that St. Thérèse extols. Little, orphaned characters proliferate his collection of children’s literature and exemplify his standard for heroines. Take, for example, Dorothy in L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series, Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, Little Nell from Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop or Little Eva (Evangeline St. Clare) of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly. The importance of this abolitionist novel and Stowe’s girl protagonist permeates Darger’s Realms narrative and construction of the Vivians.He greatly favors Little Eva, whom he uses as a measuring stick for Christian love and morality in descriptions of his own Vivians. He writes:

“Of Violet, Joice, Jennie and Evangeline, their beauty could never be described...And no Evangeline St. Clare could beat them in their kind loving ways, and their love for God. They were always willing to do as they were told, keeping away from bad company and going to Mass and Holy Communion every day, and living the lives of little saints.” Little Eva, in fact, serves as such a strong analogue for the Vivians that Darger actually resurrects her character. He writes in Volume I: “‘Who are you little girl?’ asked general Roswell Buster Johnston…The child looked reproachfully at the generals, and said, ‘My name is Evangeline St. Clare, I have just escaped from the Glandelinians …’ ‘Sure you must have come from heaven.’ Said general Hanson. Did you not die from consumption?’ ‘I nearly did, though the story about me says I did. I did not die, but fainted when the sickness got at its worse.’ (BEG PARDON TO THE WRITER OF UNCLE TOM’S CABIN).” In a sense, Darger vivifies Little Eva. Eva shall live. Pause for a moment to consider the word “Vivian.” In particular, its prefix vivi-, meaning “to enliven,” “to animate,” aligns with notions of redemption and resurrection. Are such designated names intentional? Violet, Daisy, Vivian? Acknowledging these ideals, one can begin to see the little girl as a powerful, multivalent and formulaic abstraction blooming everywhere in Darger’s art. Modeling his little heroines after a bevy of rebellious, orphaned girls and virtuous female saints, Darger created little, humble ones destined to do wondrous deeds. “Whoever is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me.” Proverbs 9:4 n Leisa Rundquist, PhD, is an assistant professor of art history at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Note: For more on this topic, see Leisa Rundquist, “Little Ways: Girlhood According to Henry Darger” Southeastern College Art Conference Review, Volume XV, No. 4 (2009): 434-447. Available via the research database, Art Full Text.

The Outsider 21


Henry Darger Room Collection helps advance scholarly research Intuit’s Henry Darger Room Collection (HDRC) includes the contents and several architectural features from Darger’s room at 851 W. Webster Ave. in Chicago, which were given to Intuit by Kiyoko Lerner in 2000, before the room was rehabbed. Intuit created a permanent exhibit––an evocation of the room where he lived for four decades, replete with original artifacts— which opened in 2008. Many other objects in the collection are archived. The HDRC is a work in progress and the next step is to stabilize, re-house and conserve many items in the room and in storage. Intuit’s goal is to preserve the collection and provide maximum access to it for the growing number of Darger scholars. Recently, art historian Leisa Rundquist, author of the preceding essay, mined the collection to support her serious research. Lisa Stone, co-curator of the HDRC, asked Rundquist about her experience using the room’s contents. Here’s what she had to say. Can you tell us about your research process and what you hoped to find in Intuit’s collection? Currently, I am focusing on the spiritual and secular dimensions of the “Vivian Girl” characters in Darger’s art. In many ways, my research methods, arguments and conclusions situate the artist’s production (visual art, writing, constructing scrapbooks) within his cultural milieu. While other scholars orient toward biographical and psychoanalytic interpretations of Darger’s art, I’ve always been fascinated with the ways in which

his work dialogues with social concerns, concepts of childhood and religious piety. While at Intuit, I searched for materials that would further confirm and/or complicate Darger’s interest in girl saints as well as in “little” girl fashions. I was particularly thrilled to find a 1932 pamphlet from Chicago’s Society of the Little Flower. The staff graciously provided digital access to the scrapbook Pictures of fires big or small in which firemen or persons lose their lives, a macabre collection of tragic stories overlaid upon coloring book images of children at play. I’m preparing a talk about this scrapbook’s coupling of idyllic childhood with lingering danger (even death) for the upcoming College Art Association conference. We’re thrilled to provide access to Intuit’s holdings to scholars like you, who amplify the understanding of Darger’s work immensely by studying primary sources. We hope to advance the preservation and access to the collection as soon as funding and staffing allow. What can Intuit do to provide the optimum access to scholars and the public?

avenue for online access is the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. They additionally loan microfiche copies to scholars, which, I believe, is the current archived format of Darger’s writings. All good questions and directions for us to consider. Did you find the experience of the HDRC room valuable? Yes, the room provided a sense of seeing something relating to Darger as “whole” for the first time. So much of what we know about Darger comes to us as fragments—recollections from acquaintances, an autobiography culminating in a fictional story, art works distributed across the globe, boxes full of newspaper photographs and ephemera that the artist saved. The HDRC environment provides an unprecedented view of how Darger organized his living and studio space. It offers an opportunity to see how he found both poetry and spiritual substance in the commonplace and everyday. n

First of all, let me say that Cleo Wilson and her staff couldn’t have been more generous with their time during my visit to Intuit. It’s apparent that they deeply care about Intuit’s collections and do all they can to make them available to scholars. In my opinion, online access to Darger’s writings would be immensely helpful to Darger scholars and enthusiasts. Could Intuit collaborate with a Chicago-based university or library to make this type of access happen? Another collaborative

Photo: Ron Gordon Scrapbook cover: Pictures of fires big or small in which firemen or persons lose their lives, n.d. Collage: found scrapbook, paper, graphite, tape, 13 1/4 x 12 3/4 in. Henry Darger Room Collection, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; a gift of Kiyoko Lerner.

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The Ou tsider 23


Henry Darger Room Collection helps advance scholarly research Intuit’s Henry Darger Room Collection (HDRC) includes the contents and several architectural features from Darger’s room at 851 W. Webster Ave. in Chicago, which were given to Intuit by Kiyoko Lerner in 2000, before the room was rehabbed. Intuit created a permanent exhibit––an evocation of the room where he lived for four decades, replete with original artifacts— which opened in 2008. Many other objects in the collection are archived. The HDRC is a work in progress and the next step is to stabilize, re-house and conserve many items in the room and in storage. Intuit’s goal is to preserve the collection and provide maximum access to it for the growing number of Darger scholars. Recently, art historian Leisa Rundquist, author of the preceding essay, mined the collection to support her serious research. Lisa Stone, co-curator of the HDRC, asked Rundquist about her experience using the room’s contents. Here’s what she had to say. Can you tell us about your research process and what you hoped to find in Intuit’s collection? Currently, I am focusing on the spiritual and secular dimensions of the “Vivian Girl” characters in Darger’s art. In many ways, my research methods, arguments and conclusions situate the artist’s production (visual art, writing, constructing scrapbooks) within his cultural milieu. While other scholars orient toward biographical and psychoanalytic interpretations of Darger’s art, I’ve always been fascinated with the ways in which

his work dialogues with social concerns, concepts of childhood and religious piety. While at Intuit, I searched for materials that would further confirm and/or complicate Darger’s interest in girl saints as well as in “little” girl fashions. I was particularly thrilled to find a 1932 pamphlet from Chicago’s Society of the Little Flower. The staff graciously provided digital access to the scrapbook Pictures of fires big or small in which firemen or persons lose their lives, a macabre collection of tragic stories overlaid upon coloring book images of children at play. I’m preparing a talk about this scrapbook’s coupling of idyllic childhood with lingering danger (even death) for the upcoming College Art Association conference. We’re thrilled to provide access to Intuit’s holdings to scholars like you, who amplify the understanding of Darger’s work immensely by studying primary sources. We hope to advance the preservation and access to the collection as soon as funding and staffing allow. What can Intuit do to provide the optimum access to scholars and the public?

avenue for online access is the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. They additionally loan microfiche copies to scholars, which, I believe, is the current archived format of Darger’s writings. All good questions and directions for us to consider. Did you find the experience of the HDRC room valuable? Yes, the room provided a sense of seeing something relating to Darger as “whole” for the first time. So much of what we know about Darger comes to us as fragments—recollections from acquaintances, an autobiography culminating in a fictional story, art works distributed across the globe, boxes full of newspaper photographs and ephemera that the artist saved. The HDRC environment provides an unprecedented view of how Darger organized his living and studio space. It offers an opportunity to see how he found both poetry and spiritual substance in the commonplace and everyday. n

First of all, let me say that Cleo Wilson and her staff couldn’t have been more generous with their time during my visit to Intuit. It’s apparent that they deeply care about Intuit’s collections and do all they can to make them available to scholars. In my opinion, online access to Darger’s writings would be immensely helpful to Darger scholars and enthusiasts. Could Intuit collaborate with a Chicago-based university or library to make this type of access happen? Another collaborative

Photo: Ron Gordon Scrapbook cover: Pictures of fires big or small in which firemen or persons lose their lives, n.d. Collage: found scrapbook, paper, graphite, tape, 13 1/4 x 12 3/4 in. Henry Darger Room Collection, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; a gift of Kiyoko Lerner.

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The Ou tsider 23


Bared souls Nudes and other magnificent nonentities highlight Charles Steffen’s originality B Y MICH A EL BONE S T EEL

Charles Steffen (1927-1995) admired and often tried to emulate the work of Picasso, Van Gogh, Redon, de Kooning and Duchamp, but failed spectacularly—thank God. While his homages to the Modernists he loved were absolutely original and compelling in their own right, they reflected more the mental strangeness of Steffen’s schizophrenia than the motifs of the masters. Just as well. Idiosyncratic invention is a hallmark of great art, and Steffen’s singular vision is, if anything, inimitable. A breakdown at the age of 23, during his second semester at the Illinois Institute of Technology, was followed by 13 years in a psychiatric hospital, where Steffen received electro-shock treatments and began making crayon drawings of the other patients on his ward. He then returned to live with his mother, Catherine, and siblings Rita and George in their home on the North Side of Chicago. Steffen spent most of his time doing menial chores around the house and producing as many as three large drawings on brown butcher paper every day for the rest of his life.

The White Rose Garden (detail), 1994. Mixed media on brown paper,17 by 23 in. Collection of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; gift of Jan Petry

The Ou tsider 25


Bared souls Nudes and other magnificent nonentities highlight Charles Steffen’s originality B Y MICH A EL BONE S T EEL

Charles Steffen (1927-1995) admired and often tried to emulate the work of Picasso, Van Gogh, Redon, de Kooning and Duchamp, but failed spectacularly—thank God. While his homages to the Modernists he loved were absolutely original and compelling in their own right, they reflected more the mental strangeness of Steffen’s schizophrenia than the motifs of the masters. Just as well. Idiosyncratic invention is a hallmark of great art, and Steffen’s singular vision is, if anything, inimitable. A breakdown at the age of 23, during his second semester at the Illinois Institute of Technology, was followed by 13 years in a psychiatric hospital, where Steffen received electro-shock treatments and began making crayon drawings of the other patients on his ward. He then returned to live with his mother, Catherine, and siblings Rita and George in their home on the North Side of Chicago. Steffen spent most of his time doing menial chores around the house and producing as many as three large drawings on brown butcher paper every day for the rest of his life.

The White Rose Garden (detail), 1994. Mixed media on brown paper,17 by 23 in. Collection of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; gift of Jan Petry

The Ou tsider 25


Although he delved into various genres of art, his favorite was undoubtedly the female nude. Rita always complained to him about his drawing nudes. In the hand-written text accompanying his drawing called Elongated Nude, Suspended in Space (1992) he wrote: “…I work when my sister is sleeping, because she does not want [me] to draw nudes, she says they are grotest [sic] and obseen [sic], oh well!, drawing nudes is like saying a prayer, amen…” Rita not only urged Steffen to desist from drawing nudes, but also periodically conducted major purges of his artworks that had built up over previous months and years. Consequently, few artworks remain from before 1989, so it is difficult to say how long the artist had been drawing nude figures. But it might be safe to surmise that he had been drawing nudes since returning home in 1963 and perhaps indulged in other approaches, such as portraits of himself, his mother or still lifes, only as a concession to Rita, who viewed his interest in drawing naked women as sinful. Being religious himself, and notwithstanding his comparison of drawing nudes to praying, Steffen may have harbored contradictory feelings about the activity. “I wish I could break myself of the prototype nude and draw normal again, what a peace of mind that would be, maybe god will premit [sic] I do hope so…” (From Mother and Child, 1989.) What did Steffen mean by “draw normal again?” What did he consider “normal?” Most likely normal to him meant drawing more conventional subjects, although he may not have been aware that the way in which he drew was already highly unconventional. Endowing the skins of his figures with extreme cross-hatched patterns that made them look for all the world like scaly reptilians seemed to him to be perfectly natural. A major departure within Steffen’s body of work appears to have been initiated in 1990 and continued into 1991. It began with his copying of images and scenes directly from

26 T he Ou tsider

years ago copying the comics.” Steffen apparently expressed an interest in being a professional cartoonist as a way to legitimize his own art and make money to contribute to the household. He drew hundreds of miniature portraits of hillbilly cartoon characters Snuffy Smith, Aunt Loweezy and their little boy Tater on small pieces of paper — the backs of grocery store receipts or Chesterfield Kings cigarette packages — perhaps as a way of practicing to do his own original strip. These smaller Snuffy works were stored in a cardboard box, but he worked on a good number of large-scale scenes as well.

for the dearth of work in ’93, he produced a whopping 856 drawings in 1994. And all of these reflect an entirely new style and direction. There is no clear explanation as to why he made such a sudden change in approach, but that year was also momentous in other ways. His mother died on October 5 and the family split up. Steffen went to live alone at a men’s retirement home in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. He continued to make art and even enrolled in an art class at Truman College. However, within a year of his mother’s death, Steffen himself would pass away at the age of 68.

In 1993, Steffen’s art production appears to have slowed to practically nothing. He had produced several hundred drawings every year from 1989 to 1992, but only six drawings from 1993 survive. Either Rita threw them out or Steffen stopped making art that year. Perhaps to make up

One of Steffen’s first forays into a new expression was prompted by his memory of seeing lithographic prints of Odilon Redon’s cyclopean creatures and floating eyeballs at the Art Institute of Chicago. His “One Eyed Nude” figure, as seen in One Eyed Nude...in a Bedroom (1994) is a smooth-skinned, gnomish and troll-like female reminiscent of the Snuffy cartoon caricatures, but possessing an eyeball’s iris and pupil on top of her head, beauty marks borrowed from Steffen’s own body and a smiley-face red line for a mouth. Significantly, the copying of Lasswell’s cartoon strips seems to have contributed to the development of Steffen’s new style as well. Other new figures that he produced in 1994 included a One Eyed Nude variation called a “Cross Eyed Nude”; his so-called “Alisha Nude,” named after a young woman who lived next door; and the “Sunflower Nude,” a sort of half-human, half-

Male and Female Nudes/Cross Eyed Nude, 1994. Pencil on paper, 52 x 30 in. Collection of Karin Tappendorf, Chicago

Fred Lasswell’s Barney Google and Snuffy Smith newspaper comic strip. Steffen used to read it as a boy at his grandmother’s

house on Sundays, and he mentions several times in the texts accompanying his drawings that he “started drawing

The Yellow Stool, Sunflower Nude…, 1994. Mixed media on paper, 24 x 16 in. Arlene Richman

plant hybrid. The streamlined, art-deco figure of the Alisha Nude sports Snuffy Smith’s honker of a nose, sometimes exhibits hermaphroditic characteristics and is featured twice in one of Steffen’s most colorful compositions, The White Rose Garden. Both the Alisha and Sunflower figures represent perhaps Steffen’s most original artistic achievements. He saw them as evolutions of the abstract nude and even “a step forward in modern art.” Afterward, he rescinded that statement and refused to take full credit for their creation. “All these nudes are really none of my undoing, but god’s,” he wrote in 1994’s Male and Female Nudes/Cross Eyed Nude. ”I just work and they come out…” n

Michael Bonesteel is an art historian, art critic and adjunct assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with expertise in the fields of outsider art and sequential art/comic books/graphic novels.

For My Niece, Lisa, 1989. Colored pencil on brown wrapping paper, 45 x 30 in. Courtesy of Russell Bowman Art Advisory, Chicago

The Outsider 27


Although he delved into various genres of art, his favorite was undoubtedly the female nude. Rita always complained to him about his drawing nudes. In the hand-written text accompanying his drawing called Elongated Nude, Suspended in Space (1992) he wrote: “…I work when my sister is sleeping, because she does not want [me] to draw nudes, she says they are grotest [sic] and obseen [sic], oh well!, drawing nudes is like saying a prayer, amen…” Rita not only urged Steffen to desist from drawing nudes, but also periodically conducted major purges of his artworks that had built up over previous months and years. Consequently, few artworks remain from before 1989, so it is difficult to say how long the artist had been drawing nude figures. But it might be safe to surmise that he had been drawing nudes since returning home in 1963 and perhaps indulged in other approaches, such as portraits of himself, his mother or still lifes, only as a concession to Rita, who viewed his interest in drawing naked women as sinful. Being religious himself, and notwithstanding his comparison of drawing nudes to praying, Steffen may have harbored contradictory feelings about the activity. “I wish I could break myself of the prototype nude and draw normal again, what a peace of mind that would be, maybe god will premit [sic] I do hope so…” (From Mother and Child, 1989.) What did Steffen mean by “draw normal again?” What did he consider “normal?” Most likely normal to him meant drawing more conventional subjects, although he may not have been aware that the way in which he drew was already highly unconventional. Endowing the skins of his figures with extreme cross-hatched patterns that made them look for all the world like scaly reptilians seemed to him to be perfectly natural. A major departure within Steffen’s body of work appears to have been initiated in 1990 and continued into 1991. It began with his copying of images and scenes directly from

26 T he Ou tsider

years ago copying the comics.” Steffen apparently expressed an interest in being a professional cartoonist as a way to legitimize his own art and make money to contribute to the household. He drew hundreds of miniature portraits of hillbilly cartoon characters Snuffy Smith, Aunt Loweezy and their little boy Tater on small pieces of paper — the backs of grocery store receipts or Chesterfield Kings cigarette packages — perhaps as a way of practicing to do his own original strip. These smaller Snuffy works were stored in a cardboard box, but he worked on a good number of large-scale scenes as well.

for the dearth of work in ’93, he produced a whopping 856 drawings in 1994. And all of these reflect an entirely new style and direction. There is no clear explanation as to why he made such a sudden change in approach, but that year was also momentous in other ways. His mother died on October 5 and the family split up. Steffen went to live alone at a men’s retirement home in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. He continued to make art and even enrolled in an art class at Truman College. However, within a year of his mother’s death, Steffen himself would pass away at the age of 68.

In 1993, Steffen’s art production appears to have slowed to practically nothing. He had produced several hundred drawings every year from 1989 to 1992, but only six drawings from 1993 survive. Either Rita threw them out or Steffen stopped making art that year. Perhaps to make up

One of Steffen’s first forays into a new expression was prompted by his memory of seeing lithographic prints of Odilon Redon’s cyclopean creatures and floating eyeballs at the Art Institute of Chicago. His “One Eyed Nude” figure, as seen in One Eyed Nude...in a Bedroom (1994) is a smooth-skinned, gnomish and troll-like female reminiscent of the Snuffy cartoon caricatures, but possessing an eyeball’s iris and pupil on top of her head, beauty marks borrowed from Steffen’s own body and a smiley-face red line for a mouth. Significantly, the copying of Lasswell’s cartoon strips seems to have contributed to the development of Steffen’s new style as well. Other new figures that he produced in 1994 included a One Eyed Nude variation called a “Cross Eyed Nude”; his so-called “Alisha Nude,” named after a young woman who lived next door; and the “Sunflower Nude,” a sort of half-human, half-

Male and Female Nudes/Cross Eyed Nude, 1994. Pencil on paper, 52 x 30 in. Collection of Karin Tappendorf, Chicago

Fred Lasswell’s Barney Google and Snuffy Smith newspaper comic strip. Steffen used to read it as a boy at his grandmother’s

house on Sundays, and he mentions several times in the texts accompanying his drawings that he “started drawing

The Yellow Stool, Sunflower Nude…, 1994. Mixed media on paper, 24 x 16 in. Arlene Richman

plant hybrid. The streamlined, art-deco figure of the Alisha Nude sports Snuffy Smith’s honker of a nose, sometimes exhibits hermaphroditic characteristics and is featured twice in one of Steffen’s most colorful compositions, The White Rose Garden. Both the Alisha and Sunflower figures represent perhaps Steffen’s most original artistic achievements. He saw them as evolutions of the abstract nude and even “a step forward in modern art.” Afterward, he rescinded that statement and refused to take full credit for their creation. “All these nudes are really none of my undoing, but god’s,” he wrote in 1994’s Male and Female Nudes/Cross Eyed Nude. ”I just work and they come out…” n

Michael Bonesteel is an art historian, art critic and adjunct assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with expertise in the fields of outsider art and sequential art/comic books/graphic novels.

For My Niece, Lisa, 1989. Colored pencil on brown wrapping paper, 45 x 30 in. Courtesy of Russell Bowman Art Advisory, Chicago

The Outsider 27


A ‘hopeful’ exhibit As Intuit prepares to celebrate its 20-year anniversary, curator Roger Manley mines the treasures in its collection In commemoration of its 20th anniversary, Intuit will present the exhibit Architecture of Hope—the Treasures of Intuit from January 21-May 14, 2011. The show, curated by Roger Manley, will be drawn from Intuit’s permanent collection as well as promised gifts to the art center. Manley has worked as a photographer, folklorist, curator, filmmaker and writer with areas of interest ranging from outsider artists and tribal peoples to fairy tales and gardens. He is now the director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. In an interview with The Outsider, Manley discussed curating the exhibition. In surveying the more than 1,000 works in Intuit’s permanent collection and promised gifts, what was your first reaction?   It was great to see so many icons of selftaught art represented in the collection. I had been familiar with many of them through books and publications, but it was a thrill to see so many of them up close. Intuit has quite a few treasures in its current and future holdings. Already it is one of the world’s major collections.   Were there any surprises?   Until now, I had never seen so many examples of Thomas K. Baker’s work. I’m not sure how much of it I will include in the exhibition I’m curating, but I was certainly delighted and impressed by many of his whimsical collages. They’d make a great show in their own right.  

28 T he Ou tsider

Can you explain a bit about why you chose “Architecture” and “Hope” as the unifying themes for this anniversary show? I wanted to do a show that is appropriate to its setting as well as to the collection. Chicago is a city that seized an opportunity to reinvent itself through architecture, after the tragedy of its great fire. Many self-taught artists, although certainly not all, responded to personal traumas— devastating illnesses, debilitating injuries, job loss, deaths of spouses, denial of opportunity, etc.—by reinventing or rebuilding themselves as makers of things. Of course, they often realized only in hindsight that they had become artists, sometimes only after someone else pointed it out. And many make not only objects, but also whole environments— another reference to architecture. It seemed to me that for them, art-making had become the thing that remained in the bottom of Pandora’s box after all the bad events had hit them. In their struggles, they discovered hope. At the same time, I suspect that a lot of collectors and admirers of self-taught art unconsciously also respond to the hope that such art demonstrates:  that is, if seemingly ordinary people in ordinary walks of life can suddenly discover previously hidden veins of creativity flowing through them, then it suggests that perhaps we all may have hidden talents within us just waiting to be released. Along with the appreciation we all feel for artists of all kinds, there is a certain degree of envy, too:  who wouldn’t want to be capable of making or doing something great and beautiful? The hope that self-taught art subtly offers answers that unconscious envy or desire.

What’s your strategy for pulling out works to illustrate these themes? Are you looking for a particular mix of media, or artists or time periods? For a show like this, I am more interested in trying to make sure that something from every collector gets included, rather than representing every media or time period. Everyone who thinks of themselves as a supporter of Intuit should feel some kind of ownership in the show and in the continued success of the institution. Beyond that, I’m looking for pieces that “play well together.”  Something happens in the interaction between any two objects that creates a kind of invisible third object, which affects their mutual meaning (in filmmaking, this is called the Kuleshov Effect). Because of this, I tend to choreograph the layout of shows a little more specifically than some curators who just generate a checklist and then let the installation crew try to sort things out. To me, that’s like sending a list of words and expecting someone else to try to tell a story with them.   What impressions do you hope visitors— especially perhaps those new to Intuit or outsider art—will be left with after viewing the exhibit?   Given the title and goal of the show, I want visitors to leave feeling some degree of renewed self-confidence in their ability to carry on the task of constantly reinventing themselves. Anyone who feels that way will automatically find hope. At the same time, people who feel that way should also feel more like supporting Intuit and its longterm missions. Helping to perpetuate Intuit is, of course, the bottom line!     Top: Stephen Warde Anderson (b. 1953), Ella Raines, 2002. Acrylic, gouache and primacolor on museum board, 12 by 18 in. Gift of Kevin Cole Bottom: William Hawkins (1895-1990), Wrigley Field, c. 1980. Enamel on mat board, 14 by 18 in. Promised gift

The Ou tsider 29


A ‘hopeful’ exhibit As Intuit prepares to celebrate its 20-year anniversary, curator Roger Manley mines the treasures in its collection In commemoration of its 20th anniversary, Intuit will present the exhibit Architecture of Hope—the Treasures of Intuit from January 21-May 14, 2011. The show, curated by Roger Manley, will be drawn from Intuit’s permanent collection as well as promised gifts to the art center. Manley has worked as a photographer, folklorist, curator, filmmaker and writer with areas of interest ranging from outsider artists and tribal peoples to fairy tales and gardens. He is now the director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. In an interview with The Outsider, Manley discussed curating the exhibition. In surveying the more than 1,000 works in Intuit’s permanent collection and promised gifts, what was your first reaction?   It was great to see so many icons of selftaught art represented in the collection. I had been familiar with many of them through books and publications, but it was a thrill to see so many of them up close. Intuit has quite a few treasures in its current and future holdings. Already it is one of the world’s major collections.   Were there any surprises?   Until now, I had never seen so many examples of Thomas K. Baker’s work. I’m not sure how much of it I will include in the exhibition I’m curating, but I was certainly delighted and impressed by many of his whimsical collages. They’d make a great show in their own right.  

28 T he Ou tsider

Can you explain a bit about why you chose “Architecture” and “Hope” as the unifying themes for this anniversary show? I wanted to do a show that is appropriate to its setting as well as to the collection. Chicago is a city that seized an opportunity to reinvent itself through architecture, after the tragedy of its great fire. Many self-taught artists, although certainly not all, responded to personal traumas— devastating illnesses, debilitating injuries, job loss, deaths of spouses, denial of opportunity, etc.—by reinventing or rebuilding themselves as makers of things. Of course, they often realized only in hindsight that they had become artists, sometimes only after someone else pointed it out. And many make not only objects, but also whole environments— another reference to architecture. It seemed to me that for them, art-making had become the thing that remained in the bottom of Pandora’s box after all the bad events had hit them. In their struggles, they discovered hope. At the same time, I suspect that a lot of collectors and admirers of self-taught art unconsciously also respond to the hope that such art demonstrates:  that is, if seemingly ordinary people in ordinary walks of life can suddenly discover previously hidden veins of creativity flowing through them, then it suggests that perhaps we all may have hidden talents within us just waiting to be released. Along with the appreciation we all feel for artists of all kinds, there is a certain degree of envy, too:  who wouldn’t want to be capable of making or doing something great and beautiful? The hope that self-taught art subtly offers answers that unconscious envy or desire.

What’s your strategy for pulling out works to illustrate these themes? Are you looking for a particular mix of media, or artists or time periods? For a show like this, I am more interested in trying to make sure that something from every collector gets included, rather than representing every media or time period. Everyone who thinks of themselves as a supporter of Intuit should feel some kind of ownership in the show and in the continued success of the institution. Beyond that, I’m looking for pieces that “play well together.”  Something happens in the interaction between any two objects that creates a kind of invisible third object, which affects their mutual meaning (in filmmaking, this is called the Kuleshov Effect). Because of this, I tend to choreograph the layout of shows a little more specifically than some curators who just generate a checklist and then let the installation crew try to sort things out. To me, that’s like sending a list of words and expecting someone else to try to tell a story with them.   What impressions do you hope visitors— especially perhaps those new to Intuit or outsider art—will be left with after viewing the exhibit?   Given the title and goal of the show, I want visitors to leave feeling some degree of renewed self-confidence in their ability to carry on the task of constantly reinventing themselves. Anyone who feels that way will automatically find hope. At the same time, people who feel that way should also feel more like supporting Intuit and its longterm missions. Helping to perpetuate Intuit is, of course, the bottom line!     Top: Stephen Warde Anderson (b. 1953), Ella Raines, 2002. Acrylic, gouache and primacolor on museum board, 12 by 18 in. Gift of Kevin Cole Bottom: William Hawkins (1895-1990), Wrigley Field, c. 1980. Enamel on mat board, 14 by 18 in. Promised gift

The Ou tsider 29


GILLEY’S GALLERY FEATURING A newly acquired private collection of work by Louisiana Folk Artist

DAVID BUTLER 1898 - 1997

All of the pieces in this collection were purchased directly from the artist beginning in the early 1970’s. Fighting Rooster 1 ( pair ) • 17” x 10” x 9.5” • Tin

Fighting Rooster 2 ( pair ) • 17” x 8” x 9.5” • Tin

Gilley’s Gallery • 8 7 5 0

Florida Boulevard • Baton Rouge, LA 70815 • 225.922.9225 • outsider@eatel.net Vi s i t u s o n l i n e a t : w w w . g i l l e y s g a l l e r y . c o m • w w w.facebook.com/gilleysgaller y

Be sure to visit our booth at the 2010 INTUIT SHOW OF FOLK & OUTSIDER ART November 5-7 at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, Chicago, Illinois.

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Eugene Andolsek, Untitled, n.d., Ink on graph paper

w w w . a m e r i c a n p r i m i t i v e . c o m

1 0 0 7 5


GILLEY’S GALLERY FEATURING A newly acquired private collection of work by Louisiana Folk Artist

DAVID BUTLER 1898 - 1997

All of the pieces in this collection were purchased directly from the artist beginning in the early 1970’s. Fighting Rooster 1 ( pair ) • 17” x 10” x 9.5” • Tin

Fighting Rooster 2 ( pair ) • 17” x 8” x 9.5” • Tin

Gilley’s Gallery • 8 7 5 0

Florida Boulevard • Baton Rouge, LA 70815 • 225.922.9225 • outsider@eatel.net Vi s i t u s o n l i n e a t : w w w . g i l l e y s g a l l e r y . c o m • w w w.facebook.com/gilleysgaller y

Be sure to visit our booth at the 2010 INTUIT SHOW OF FOLK & OUTSIDER ART November 5-7 at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, Chicago, Illinois.

A M E R I C A N 4 9

E a s t

7 8

S t .

P R I M I T I V E S u i t e

2 B ,

N e w

G A L L E R Y

Y o r k ,

N Y

Eugene Andolsek, Untitled, n.d., Ink on graph paper

w w w . a m e r i c a n p r i m i t i v e . c o m

1 0 0 7 5


THORNTON DIAL

“Ivory Billed Woodpecker” 2010 Found Object Sculpture

MARK MAY

“Vivian Vance” 2008 48x48 Mixed Media on Canvas

1/21-3/15(2011)

JIM BLOOM

“Purple Rain” 1995 64x43x7 Mixed Media

Thornton Dial’s mixed media wall assemblages and works on paper as recent as 2009.

“Dirge at Daughters Bridge” 30x40 Collage & mixed media on Canvas

9/10-10/24

An exhibition exploring the artistic projects of self-taught artists, Gabriel Shaffer, (Asheville, NC) and Mark May (Mechanicsburg, PA)

GABRIEL SHAFFER

11/5-1/9(2011)

George & Sue Viener • 201 Washington St. Suite 504 • Reading, PA 19601 • 610.939.1737

EMERGING VISIONS

Philadelphia artist, Jim Bloom’s third solo exhibition at Outsider Folk Art Gallery


THORNTON DIAL

“Ivory Billed Woodpecker” 2010 Found Object Sculpture

MARK MAY

“Vivian Vance” 2008 48x48 Mixed Media on Canvas

1/21-3/15(2011)

JIM BLOOM

“Purple Rain” 1995 64x43x7 Mixed Media

Thornton Dial’s mixed media wall assemblages and works on paper as recent as 2009.

“Dirge at Daughters Bridge” 30x40 Collage & mixed media on Canvas

9/10-10/24

An exhibition exploring the artistic projects of self-taught artists, Gabriel Shaffer, (Asheville, NC) and Mark May (Mechanicsburg, PA)

GABRIEL SHAFFER

11/5-1/9(2011)

George & Sue Viener • 201 Washington St. Suite 504 • Reading, PA 19601 • 610.939.1737

EMERGING VISIONS

Philadelphia artist, Jim Bloom’s third solo exhibition at Outsider Folk Art Gallery


    U.S. Postage PAID Chicago, IL Permit No. 1172

PRESORTED STANDARD

Chicago Gallery News • 730 North Franklin • Chicago, IL 60654 • 312.649.0064 • chicagogallerynews.com

September-December 2010 • Volume 25 / Number 3

www.chicagogallerynews.com • Art exhibition details • Opening receptions • Events, talks + news • Art world interviews • Gallery maps • Exhibiting artists • Gallery specialties • Art resources • Spaces, studios, centers

JIM WORK Chicago’s oldest, most respected guide to art galleries, news, resources + events for over 27 years. info@chicagogallerynews.com Twitter @ChiGalleryNews Sign up for our free e-blasts Join our Facebook Group Read our art blog To subscribe or advertise, contact us: Tel 312.649.0064 730 N. Franklin, Chicago, IL 60654

THE PARDEE COLLECTION www.pardeecollection.com Iowa City, IA • 319-337-2500


    U.S. Postage PAID Chicago, IL Permit No. 1172

PRESORTED STANDARD

Chicago Gallery News • 730 North Franklin • Chicago, IL 60654 • 312.649.0064 • chicagogallerynews.com

September-December 2010 • Volume 25 / Number 3

www.chicagogallerynews.com • Art exhibition details • Opening receptions • Events, talks + news • Art world interviews • Gallery maps • Exhibiting artists • Gallery specialties • Art resources • Spaces, studios, centers

JIM WORK Chicago’s oldest, most respected guide to art galleries, news, resources + events for over 27 years. info@chicagogallerynews.com Twitter @ChiGalleryNews Sign up for our free e-blasts Join our Facebook Group Read our art blog To subscribe or advertise, contact us: Tel 312.649.0064 730 N. Franklin, Chicago, IL 60654

THE PARDEE COLLECTION www.pardeecollection.com Iowa City, IA • 319-337-2500


Exhibition of student artwork celebrates another great year for fellowship program

Far left: Blue House-Home by Jessie James (top) and Farmhouse after Castle by Rayvon Allison, both from Wells High School, 11th grade. Center: A work inspired by Henry Darger, by a Bronzeville Scholastic Institute student. Right: Homage to Ulysses Davis, Armstrong School, 7th grade students. Photos: Melissa Marinaro

Colorful and engaging student artwork inspired by self-taught artists such as James Castle, Lee Godie, Ulysses Davis and Ruby and Calvin Black filled Intuit’s Study Gallery in June during the annual Teacher Fellowship Program Exhibition. Each year, 20 teachers from 10 Chicago public schools are selected through a careful admissions process to participate in Intuit’s award-winning professional development program. Through the program, teachers interested in incorporating the work of self-taught artists into their classrooms receive training in how to use the art to supplement learning in the subjects of English, history, social studies, visual art, music and computer science. This year, the fellowship program served 2,600 students with the help of generous grants from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation and the John R. Houlsby Foundation, as well as through donations from Intuit’s members.

The exhibition is a celebration of artwork created by the students participating in the program. The projects highlighted in this year’s show are wonderful examples of the creative visions that can emerge from using outsider art as an inspiration for learning. Teachers used knowledge gained from attending workshops, lectures, tours of outsider art collections and having access to the Robert A. Roth Study Center to design original and innovative curricula. This year’s inspiration came from selftaught artists such as James Castle, Gregory Van Maanen, Lee Godie, Henry Darger, Ulysses Davis, Ruby and Calvin Black; a range of self-taught African American artists of the southern United States; and the Dickeyville Grotto. The exhibition was curated by Jerry Stefl, Intuit’s Education chair; Amanda Curtis-Petrozzini, former Education director; Melissa Marinaro, interim Education director; and Sabrina Severns, Education intern.

This marks only the second time that Intuit has hosted the Teacher Fellowship Program Exhibition in its facilities. Students and teachers attended the event with their families and friends and enjoyed a live musical performance by the students of Thomas J. Waters Elementary School in the center’s performance space. Other schools represented in this year’s exhibition were ACT Charter School, George B. Armstrong School of International Studies, Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, Farragut Career Academy, Mary Lyon Elementary School, Orozco Fine Arts & Sciences Elementary School, Louis Pasteur Elementary School, Ryder Elementary Math & Science Specialty School and Wells Community High School. To learn more about the program and how to apply for future school years, or if you are interested in reviewing lesson plans from years past, please visit www.art.org/ educational/fellowship.htm. – Melissa Marinaro

36 T he Ou tsider

The Outsider 37


Exhibition of student artwork celebrates another great year for fellowship program

Far left: Blue House-Home by Jessie James (top) and Farmhouse after Castle by Rayvon Allison, both from Wells High School, 11th grade. Center: A work inspired by Henry Darger, by a Bronzeville Scholastic Institute student. Right: Homage to Ulysses Davis, Armstrong School, 7th grade students. Photos: Melissa Marinaro

Colorful and engaging student artwork inspired by self-taught artists such as James Castle, Lee Godie, Ulysses Davis and Ruby and Calvin Black filled Intuit’s Study Gallery in June during the annual Teacher Fellowship Program Exhibition. Each year, 20 teachers from 10 Chicago public schools are selected through a careful admissions process to participate in Intuit’s award-winning professional development program. Through the program, teachers interested in incorporating the work of self-taught artists into their classrooms receive training in how to use the art to supplement learning in the subjects of English, history, social studies, visual art, music and computer science. This year, the fellowship program served 2,600 students with the help of generous grants from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation and the John R. Houlsby Foundation, as well as through donations from Intuit’s members.

The exhibition is a celebration of artwork created by the students participating in the program. The projects highlighted in this year’s show are wonderful examples of the creative visions that can emerge from using outsider art as an inspiration for learning. Teachers used knowledge gained from attending workshops, lectures, tours of outsider art collections and having access to the Robert A. Roth Study Center to design original and innovative curricula. This year’s inspiration came from selftaught artists such as James Castle, Gregory Van Maanen, Lee Godie, Henry Darger, Ulysses Davis, Ruby and Calvin Black; a range of self-taught African American artists of the southern United States; and the Dickeyville Grotto. The exhibition was curated by Jerry Stefl, Intuit’s Education chair; Amanda Curtis-Petrozzini, former Education director; Melissa Marinaro, interim Education director; and Sabrina Severns, Education intern.

This marks only the second time that Intuit has hosted the Teacher Fellowship Program Exhibition in its facilities. Students and teachers attended the event with their families and friends and enjoyed a live musical performance by the students of Thomas J. Waters Elementary School in the center’s performance space. Other schools represented in this year’s exhibition were ACT Charter School, George B. Armstrong School of International Studies, Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, Farragut Career Academy, Mary Lyon Elementary School, Orozco Fine Arts & Sciences Elementary School, Louis Pasteur Elementary School, Ryder Elementary Math & Science Specialty School and Wells Community High School. To learn more about the program and how to apply for future school years, or if you are interested in reviewing lesson plans from years past, please visit www.art.org/ educational/fellowship.htm. – Melissa Marinaro

36 T he Ou tsider

The Outsider 37


Recent Acquisitions & Promised Gifts Intuit is pleased to accept The Illusion Box, by Jerry Wagner (b. 1939), through a generous donation by Wagner and his dealer, George Jacobs. The Illusion Box is representative of Wagner’s meditative, spiritual and poetic way of immortalizing temporal existence through his drawing/ collage works. Wagner’s work was featured at INSITA 2010, The 9th International Triennial of Self-Taught Art in Bratislava, Slovakia. We thank board member Kevin Cole for his gift of four paintings by Stephen Warde Anderson (b. 1953), known for his paintings of idealized women, stars of the silver screen and other works rendered with his original, pointillist technique. Left: Pierre Carbonel (b. 1925), Untitled, n.d. Ink emulsion on bristol board, 34 1/2 by 20 1/2 in. Gift of Roger Manley Center: Pierre Carbonel (b. 1925), Untitled, n.d. Ink emulsion on bristol board, 35 by 23 in. Gift of Roger Manley Right: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983), Self-Portrait (with hat), c. 1940s, Silver gelatin print. 10 by 8 in. Promised gift of Lisa Stone and Don Howlett

Intuit’s permanent collection has been enhanced by many gifts of late, including outstanding sculpture, works on paper and mixed-media paintings. Included in the recent Intuit exhibit Life Lines: The Drawings of Charles Steffen, The White Rose Garden was generously donated by Jan Petry. Initially attending the Illinois Institute of Technology, Steffen (19271995) created a large body of work after suffering a mental breakdown for which he was hospitalized over the next 15 years. The White Rose Garden is emblematic of the highly original drawings that ensued. Although many of them were destroyed, the remainder were saved by the Steffen family. To our great delight, this gift comes on the heels of a promised gift from Jan, in honor of Cleo Wilson: a rare carving by the renowned Savannah, Ga., barber/wood sculptor Ulysses Davis (1914-1990). This small carving, Untitled (Fantasy Beast), is a superb example of Davis’ inspired and

38 T he Ou tsider

meticulous craft and vivid imagination. It made a strong showing at Intuit’s installation earlier this year of the traveling exhibit The Treasure of Ulysses Davis, organized by the High Museum in Atlanta. These generous contributions underscore Jan’s steadfast dedication and support for Intuit over the years. We thank Jim Newberry for his donation of a soulful, poignant portrait by Gregory “Mr. Imagination” Warmack (b. 1948) that was carved from a waste material he dubbed “sandstone,” a byproduct of the foundry industry. Discovery of this material, proving easy for the artist to manipulate, marked a pivotal moment in his becoming an artist. We are pleased to have this example of his early work, undoubtedly a self-portrait. Two works by artist Jimmie Lee Sudduth (1910-2007) were added to the collection, with thanks to donor Micki Beth Stiller.

Untitled (Female/Apron) and Untitled (Snake) are typical of the artist’s finger-paintings using pigments mixed with various improvised binding materials, such as sugar, soft drinks, instant coffee and caulk on found plywood. We thank Jay Hotchkiss, who arranged the donation of two works by his brother Ben Hotchkiss (b. 1945), both excellent examples of his abstract works. We also are very grateful to Roger Manley for his donation of two works on paper by Pierre Carbonel (b. 1925). Carbonel was a contemporary and acquaintance of Jean Dubuffet, who championed such work under the banner of art brut. Dubuffet included Carbonel’s work in his Collection de l’Art Brut (now in Lausanne, Switzerland). The works on paper are fine examples of his special ink emulsions, a process he developed and used between 1960 and 1981.

Jimmie Lee Sudduth (1910-2007), Untitled (Snake), 1992. House paint on plywood, 31 by 47 1/2 in. Gift of Micki Beth Stiller

William Fagaly has graciously contributed a promised gift of Locomotive Engine with Rooster by David Butler (1898—1997) in honor of Phyllis Kind, Susann Craig, Cleo Wilson and Bob Roth. This outstanding example of Butler’s painted tin sculptures was included in Black Folk Art In America 1930-1980, the watershed exhibit (organized by the Corcoran Gallery in 1982) that toured extensively through 1984 and introduced significant African-American self-taught artists widely and in great depth. Lisa Stone and Don Howlett have promised gifts of three works by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983), including a vase, a miniature chicken bone chair and a self-portrait photograph of the artist sporting a woman’s hat, most likely his wife Marie’s. Also promised is an untitled assemblage of found materials and debris by the beloved Chicago artist Derek Webster (1934-2009).

Jerry Wagner (b. 1939), The Illusion Box, 2005. Mixed media, 8 by 7 in. Gift of George Jacobs

Mr. Imagination (b. 1948), Untitled (portrait head), n.d. “Sandstone.” Gift of Jim Newberry

– ROBERT BURNIER

The Outsider 39


Recent Acquisitions & Promised Gifts Intuit is pleased to accept The Illusion Box, by Jerry Wagner (b. 1939), through a generous donation by Wagner and his dealer, George Jacobs. The Illusion Box is representative of Wagner’s meditative, spiritual and poetic way of immortalizing temporal existence through his drawing/ collage works. Wagner’s work was featured at INSITA 2010, The 9th International Triennial of Self-Taught Art in Bratislava, Slovakia. We thank board member Kevin Cole for his gift of four paintings by Stephen Warde Anderson (b. 1953), known for his paintings of idealized women, stars of the silver screen and other works rendered with his original, pointillist technique. Left: Pierre Carbonel (b. 1925), Untitled, n.d. Ink emulsion on bristol board, 34 1/2 by 20 1/2 in. Gift of Roger Manley Center: Pierre Carbonel (b. 1925), Untitled, n.d. Ink emulsion on bristol board, 35 by 23 in. Gift of Roger Manley Right: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983), Self-Portrait (with hat), c. 1940s, Silver gelatin print. 10 by 8 in. Promised gift of Lisa Stone and Don Howlett

Intuit’s permanent collection has been enhanced by many gifts of late, including outstanding sculpture, works on paper and mixed-media paintings. Included in the recent Intuit exhibit Life Lines: The Drawings of Charles Steffen, The White Rose Garden was generously donated by Jan Petry. Initially attending the Illinois Institute of Technology, Steffen (19271995) created a large body of work after suffering a mental breakdown for which he was hospitalized over the next 15 years. The White Rose Garden is emblematic of the highly original drawings that ensued. Although many of them were destroyed, the remainder were saved by the Steffen family. To our great delight, this gift comes on the heels of a promised gift from Jan, in honor of Cleo Wilson: a rare carving by the renowned Savannah, Ga., barber/wood sculptor Ulysses Davis (1914-1990). This small carving, Untitled (Fantasy Beast), is a superb example of Davis’ inspired and

38 T he Ou tsider

meticulous craft and vivid imagination. It made a strong showing at Intuit’s installation earlier this year of the traveling exhibit The Treasure of Ulysses Davis, organized by the High Museum in Atlanta. These generous contributions underscore Jan’s steadfast dedication and support for Intuit over the years. We thank Jim Newberry for his donation of a soulful, poignant portrait by Gregory “Mr. Imagination” Warmack (b. 1948) that was carved from a waste material he dubbed “sandstone,” a byproduct of the foundry industry. Discovery of this material, proving easy for the artist to manipulate, marked a pivotal moment in his becoming an artist. We are pleased to have this example of his early work, undoubtedly a self-portrait. Two works by artist Jimmie Lee Sudduth (1910-2007) were added to the collection, with thanks to donor Micki Beth Stiller.

Untitled (Female/Apron) and Untitled (Snake) are typical of the artist’s finger-paintings using pigments mixed with various improvised binding materials, such as sugar, soft drinks, instant coffee and caulk on found plywood. We thank Jay Hotchkiss, who arranged the donation of two works by his brother Ben Hotchkiss (b. 1945), both excellent examples of his abstract works. We also are very grateful to Roger Manley for his donation of two works on paper by Pierre Carbonel (b. 1925). Carbonel was a contemporary and acquaintance of Jean Dubuffet, who championed such work under the banner of art brut. Dubuffet included Carbonel’s work in his Collection de l’Art Brut (now in Lausanne, Switzerland). The works on paper are fine examples of his special ink emulsions, a process he developed and used between 1960 and 1981.

Jimmie Lee Sudduth (1910-2007), Untitled (Snake), 1992. House paint on plywood, 31 by 47 1/2 in. Gift of Micki Beth Stiller

William Fagaly has graciously contributed a promised gift of Locomotive Engine with Rooster by David Butler (1898—1997) in honor of Phyllis Kind, Susann Craig, Cleo Wilson and Bob Roth. This outstanding example of Butler’s painted tin sculptures was included in Black Folk Art In America 1930-1980, the watershed exhibit (organized by the Corcoran Gallery in 1982) that toured extensively through 1984 and introduced significant African-American self-taught artists widely and in great depth. Lisa Stone and Don Howlett have promised gifts of three works by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983), including a vase, a miniature chicken bone chair and a self-portrait photograph of the artist sporting a woman’s hat, most likely his wife Marie’s. Also promised is an untitled assemblage of found materials and debris by the beloved Chicago artist Derek Webster (1934-2009).

Jerry Wagner (b. 1939), The Illusion Box, 2005. Mixed media, 8 by 7 in. Gift of George Jacobs

Mr. Imagination (b. 1948), Untitled (portrait head), n.d. “Sandstone.” Gift of Jim Newberry

– ROBERT BURNIER

The Outsider 39


Book Reviews HENRY DARG ER By Klaus Biesenbach, with contributions by Brooke Davis Anderson and Michael Bonesteel. Prestel USA, 304 pages, 250 color illustrations, 2009. ISBN 978-3-7913-4210-8. (hardcover)

This is the finest edition yet of Henry Darger’s artwork, with an extensive and beautiful selection of plates that includes a number of extra-wide foldout pages. It features some of the goriest, most disturbing Darger images yet published but also pictures that demonstrate a totally different richness of imagination, such as his over-the-top facility with flowers. Too bad the book is bogged down at the beginning with pointless argumentation about how to classify Darger (1892-1973) as an artist. It’s a highly consequential question for author Klaus Biesenbach, who appears to believe that Darger’s accepted status as an exemplar of art brut genius actually undermines his artistic credentials. Biesenbach, chief curator of media and performance art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, generously demurs that he is “not going to attempt to prove that [Darger] was not” an outsider. That disclaimer is contradicted, however, by his singular focus on proving that Darger was a real artist by demonstrating his similarities to (non-outsider) artists whose status is presumably uncontroversial. It’s odd and anachronistic to begin a major book on a major artist by rehashing tired

40 T he Ou tsider

concepts that lost their usefulness and interest long ago. Biesenbach seems impervious to any lessons from the outsider art field, if not to its worst clichés and straw men— most notably the notion that outsiders by definition create in total isolation. Biesenbach says Darger was not a true outsider because he was—and this is a shocker—influenced by popular culture. In reality that proposition is irrelevant not only to Darger but also to the artists in any art brut canon you care to name, Adolf Wölfli and Martín Ramírez among them. The concept of pure isolation was put to rest a long time ago. To say that outsider artists are uninfluenced by culture is coherent only if taken to mean that they work independent of art-world culture, not the world as a whole. To use Jean Dubuffet’s framework, they create outside of High Culture with a capital “c.” If Biesenbach ignored Darger’s outsider status and simply compared and contrasted his work with other art, there would be less cause for objection. Just because you or I happen to care about outsider art (or an equivalent label) doesn’t mean everyone should. The art should and can stand apart from the artist’s history. But Biesenbach appears to think that outsider status matters a great deal, in a negative sense: People in this class produce little of artistic value. So he tries hard—too hard—to find work by contemporary artists that has something in common with Darger’s, whether that’s violence, weird little girls, or cartoonish imagery. Few of these associations have enough depth to really connect, but for him they establish Darger’s artistic bona fides. This legitimation by analogy is not very complimentary. Worse is the attribution of disreputable conduct, an effort that

ironically is a direct function of the outsiderness that Biesenbach is taking such pains to refute on an artistic level. As someone notably eccentric in his personality and art, and virtually unknown in his lifetime, Darger is a tempting target, and not just for Biesenbach. But at least John MacGregor, who inched very close to labeling Darger a murderer in his exhaustive study “Henry Darger In the Realms of the Unreal,” had spent years researching the man and his work. MacGregor’s implication that Darger was obsessed with missing children because he might have been responsible for one or more of their disappearances was purely speculative. Biesenbach’s rationale for theorizing that pornography was one of the important popular culture influences on Darger is even thinner. His confusion of the classically melodramatic theme of lovely little girls in peril with pornographic iconography is dubious to say the least. A similar degree of mix-up can be seen in the parallels Biesenbach draws with Joseph Cornell, which are not only superficial but also disingenuous. Cornell unequivocally belonged to the art world milieu. Darger unequivocally did not. That put them worlds apart even if Cornell was also an obsessive, eccentric autodidact. If you bring biographical details into the picture at all, you need to account for the artists’ intentions lest you build your premises entirely on superficial likes and unlikes. Although another person’s intentions cannot with confidence be fully known, they also cannot with wisdom be fully ignored. Taking into account an artist’s work and statements and history, enough can usually be pieced together to understand something of his or her purposes. Given the extensive research that MacGregor, Michael Bonesteel and

others have conducted, it should not be difficult to understand what sets Darger apart from most of the artists discussed in this book. Although there is undoubtedly prestige in having a foundational essay written by a MOMA curator, and bringing a fresh and sophisticated voice to the conversation should be promising, those calculations go badly awry—and result in a major missed opportunity that mars an otherwise excellent book. Brooke Anderson’s contribution is too brief to entirely compensate for the dead weight of the opening essay but is nonetheless very valuable. That comes as no surprise based on her reliably excellent work in many similar volumes. She brings fresh insights into Darger’s working methods while referencing his journal and other materials to elucidate his artistic influences. She points to evidence that those influences go beyond the popular culture sources usually cited and include works like the 15th Century Ghent Altarpiece.

theoretical audience, which in turn sheds light on his broader self-image: “To make matters worse, now I’m an artist, been one for years, and cannot hardly stand on my feet, because of my knees, to paint on the top of the long pictures.” Especially when compared with the thousands of pages of his In the Realms of the Unreal epic, the autobiography makes for easy reading while supplying new texture to his life. Although nothing except the most speculative interpretation supports the idea that Darger may have been a murderer or porn consumer, his own account establishes that he was guilty of arson at least once, and perhaps more than that. The account also gives sense to his childhood nickname of “Crazy.” This man of excessive temper would have been hard to be with. Indeed, it was clearly hard for Darger to be with himself. It’s not such a leap to speculate that from his long struggle came the magnificent art that this book so powerfully reproduces. —W ILLIAM SW IS LOW

Such influences still don’t justify broad claims about whether Darger was or wasn’t an outsider. Familiarity with artistic images, whether their source is high art or low, is insufficient in defining someone as an artist brut. Anderson speaks to this directly in a footnote, arguing (with thorough justice) that even in Dubuffet’s original and aggressive definition these artists were not necessarily isolated from culture as a whole but rather operating outside what he viewed as the debilitating context of the high-culture establishment. The book concludes with 64 pages, reproduced in facsimile, from Darger’s autobiography. Darger makes pertinent allusions to his sense of having at least a

JOH N MA R GOLIES, R OADSIDE AME RICA By John Margolies, edited by Jim Heimann, with contributions by Phil Patton, C. Ford Peatross and photos by John Margolies. Taschen, 288 pages, about 400 color photos, 2010. ISBN: 978-3-8365-1173-5. (hardcover)

The enthusiasm for vernacular expression that began flowering in the United States in the 1970s never quite jelled into a unified movement. Yet a new generation did learn to value the work of self-taught artists, and a sizable coterie of writers, photographers, architects and others discovered an exterior landscape whose aesthetic dimension was almost entirely accidental, but all the more striking for it. This was the American roadside, most prominently the two-lane highways that dominated long-distance travel in the Mid-Century period but also a vast array of mostly commercial architecture and signage. This could range from almost anything in neon to the eccentric duckshaped building on Long Island celebrated by architects Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour and Denise Scott Brown in their ground-breaking book, Learning from Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. If early lovers of what some were then calling “contemporary American folk art” felt no love from an art establishment that had little use for the work of self-taught artists, how much worse the estrangement of those claiming to value the epitome of American ugliness? Not only were they going up against the modernist revulsion expressed so well in architect Peter Blake’s influential book God’s Own Junkyard, but they also were taking on a decade of highway beautification launched by the former first lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson. Yet Venturi’s early dissent gained increasing support into the 1980s with an outpouring of work that brought attention and appreciation to roadside architecture. There was urgency from the realization that this landscape was in the act of vanishing, victim to the elements as much

The Outsider 41


Book Reviews HENRY DARG ER By Klaus Biesenbach, with contributions by Brooke Davis Anderson and Michael Bonesteel. Prestel USA, 304 pages, 250 color illustrations, 2009. ISBN 978-3-7913-4210-8. (hardcover)

This is the finest edition yet of Henry Darger’s artwork, with an extensive and beautiful selection of plates that includes a number of extra-wide foldout pages. It features some of the goriest, most disturbing Darger images yet published but also pictures that demonstrate a totally different richness of imagination, such as his over-the-top facility with flowers. Too bad the book is bogged down at the beginning with pointless argumentation about how to classify Darger (1892-1973) as an artist. It’s a highly consequential question for author Klaus Biesenbach, who appears to believe that Darger’s accepted status as an exemplar of art brut genius actually undermines his artistic credentials. Biesenbach, chief curator of media and performance art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, generously demurs that he is “not going to attempt to prove that [Darger] was not” an outsider. That disclaimer is contradicted, however, by his singular focus on proving that Darger was a real artist by demonstrating his similarities to (non-outsider) artists whose status is presumably uncontroversial. It’s odd and anachronistic to begin a major book on a major artist by rehashing tired

40 T he Ou tsider

concepts that lost their usefulness and interest long ago. Biesenbach seems impervious to any lessons from the outsider art field, if not to its worst clichés and straw men— most notably the notion that outsiders by definition create in total isolation. Biesenbach says Darger was not a true outsider because he was—and this is a shocker—influenced by popular culture. In reality that proposition is irrelevant not only to Darger but also to the artists in any art brut canon you care to name, Adolf Wölfli and Martín Ramírez among them. The concept of pure isolation was put to rest a long time ago. To say that outsider artists are uninfluenced by culture is coherent only if taken to mean that they work independent of art-world culture, not the world as a whole. To use Jean Dubuffet’s framework, they create outside of High Culture with a capital “c.” If Biesenbach ignored Darger’s outsider status and simply compared and contrasted his work with other art, there would be less cause for objection. Just because you or I happen to care about outsider art (or an equivalent label) doesn’t mean everyone should. The art should and can stand apart from the artist’s history. But Biesenbach appears to think that outsider status matters a great deal, in a negative sense: People in this class produce little of artistic value. So he tries hard—too hard—to find work by contemporary artists that has something in common with Darger’s, whether that’s violence, weird little girls, or cartoonish imagery. Few of these associations have enough depth to really connect, but for him they establish Darger’s artistic bona fides. This legitimation by analogy is not very complimentary. Worse is the attribution of disreputable conduct, an effort that

ironically is a direct function of the outsiderness that Biesenbach is taking such pains to refute on an artistic level. As someone notably eccentric in his personality and art, and virtually unknown in his lifetime, Darger is a tempting target, and not just for Biesenbach. But at least John MacGregor, who inched very close to labeling Darger a murderer in his exhaustive study “Henry Darger In the Realms of the Unreal,” had spent years researching the man and his work. MacGregor’s implication that Darger was obsessed with missing children because he might have been responsible for one or more of their disappearances was purely speculative. Biesenbach’s rationale for theorizing that pornography was one of the important popular culture influences on Darger is even thinner. His confusion of the classically melodramatic theme of lovely little girls in peril with pornographic iconography is dubious to say the least. A similar degree of mix-up can be seen in the parallels Biesenbach draws with Joseph Cornell, which are not only superficial but also disingenuous. Cornell unequivocally belonged to the art world milieu. Darger unequivocally did not. That put them worlds apart even if Cornell was also an obsessive, eccentric autodidact. If you bring biographical details into the picture at all, you need to account for the artists’ intentions lest you build your premises entirely on superficial likes and unlikes. Although another person’s intentions cannot with confidence be fully known, they also cannot with wisdom be fully ignored. Taking into account an artist’s work and statements and history, enough can usually be pieced together to understand something of his or her purposes. Given the extensive research that MacGregor, Michael Bonesteel and

others have conducted, it should not be difficult to understand what sets Darger apart from most of the artists discussed in this book. Although there is undoubtedly prestige in having a foundational essay written by a MOMA curator, and bringing a fresh and sophisticated voice to the conversation should be promising, those calculations go badly awry—and result in a major missed opportunity that mars an otherwise excellent book. Brooke Anderson’s contribution is too brief to entirely compensate for the dead weight of the opening essay but is nonetheless very valuable. That comes as no surprise based on her reliably excellent work in many similar volumes. She brings fresh insights into Darger’s working methods while referencing his journal and other materials to elucidate his artistic influences. She points to evidence that those influences go beyond the popular culture sources usually cited and include works like the 15th Century Ghent Altarpiece.

theoretical audience, which in turn sheds light on his broader self-image: “To make matters worse, now I’m an artist, been one for years, and cannot hardly stand on my feet, because of my knees, to paint on the top of the long pictures.” Especially when compared with the thousands of pages of his In the Realms of the Unreal epic, the autobiography makes for easy reading while supplying new texture to his life. Although nothing except the most speculative interpretation supports the idea that Darger may have been a murderer or porn consumer, his own account establishes that he was guilty of arson at least once, and perhaps more than that. The account also gives sense to his childhood nickname of “Crazy.” This man of excessive temper would have been hard to be with. Indeed, it was clearly hard for Darger to be with himself. It’s not such a leap to speculate that from his long struggle came the magnificent art that this book so powerfully reproduces. —W ILLIAM SW IS LOW

Such influences still don’t justify broad claims about whether Darger was or wasn’t an outsider. Familiarity with artistic images, whether their source is high art or low, is insufficient in defining someone as an artist brut. Anderson speaks to this directly in a footnote, arguing (with thorough justice) that even in Dubuffet’s original and aggressive definition these artists were not necessarily isolated from culture as a whole but rather operating outside what he viewed as the debilitating context of the high-culture establishment. The book concludes with 64 pages, reproduced in facsimile, from Darger’s autobiography. Darger makes pertinent allusions to his sense of having at least a

JOH N MA R GOLIES, R OADSIDE AME RICA By John Margolies, edited by Jim Heimann, with contributions by Phil Patton, C. Ford Peatross and photos by John Margolies. Taschen, 288 pages, about 400 color photos, 2010. ISBN: 978-3-8365-1173-5. (hardcover)

The enthusiasm for vernacular expression that began flowering in the United States in the 1970s never quite jelled into a unified movement. Yet a new generation did learn to value the work of self-taught artists, and a sizable coterie of writers, photographers, architects and others discovered an exterior landscape whose aesthetic dimension was almost entirely accidental, but all the more striking for it. This was the American roadside, most prominently the two-lane highways that dominated long-distance travel in the Mid-Century period but also a vast array of mostly commercial architecture and signage. This could range from almost anything in neon to the eccentric duckshaped building on Long Island celebrated by architects Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour and Denise Scott Brown in their ground-breaking book, Learning from Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. If early lovers of what some were then calling “contemporary American folk art” felt no love from an art establishment that had little use for the work of self-taught artists, how much worse the estrangement of those claiming to value the epitome of American ugliness? Not only were they going up against the modernist revulsion expressed so well in architect Peter Blake’s influential book God’s Own Junkyard, but they also were taking on a decade of highway beautification launched by the former first lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson. Yet Venturi’s early dissent gained increasing support into the 1980s with an outpouring of work that brought attention and appreciation to roadside architecture. There was urgency from the realization that this landscape was in the act of vanishing, victim to the elements as much

The Outsider 41


Movie Reviews

In 1981 came California Crazy by Jim Heimann—and The End of the Road: Vanishing Highway Architecture in America, the ground-breaking survey by Margolies, perhaps the greatest exponent of roadside art. The books by Heimann and Margolies were both modest paperbacks, their formats too small to do justice to their photographic content. Margolies’ was a mere 94 pages, but there were many more volumes to come from this prolific hunter and gatherer of roadside images. Now, John Margolies, Roadside America is a fantastic summing up of 30 years of labor. His aesthetic clarity contrasts with the thread of roadside mania that most fully entered mainstream culture: a nostalgia-

42 T he Ou tsider

Margolies also can be distinguished from the post-modernist fascination with decoding a world of signs and symbols formerly treated as opaque cultural noise. A scholarly work like Karal Ann Marling’s 1984 The Colossus of Roads: Myth and Symbol along the America Highway has, like many of the old-highway books, its own virtues. Margolies tends to focus on what the material can say for itself, with neither nostalgia nor academic overlay. What comes through powerfully in every image is an intelligent, sensitive appreciation for the creativity of ordinary people and a passion that connects to the concurrent resurgence of interest in vernacular art, whether defined as “contemporary American folk” or “outsider.” In both cases you see a fanatical search for artistic expression rarely recognized (even by its makers) as artistic or even expressive. And if appreciation of selftaught art uncovers the creativity of thousands of talents whose efforts would otherwise be invisible, recognition of the art in America’s roadside vernacular can transform the commercial landscape from a dreary vista of self-serving signage into something that is endlessly fascinating in its aesthetic and cultural dimensions. Margolies traveled the country from at least 1975 collecting images of roadside art the way others trolled flea markets and back roads looking for folk artists. His eye for the unusual and interesting is fantastic, whether it be hand-built mini-golf courses,

pig-shaped barbecue stands, giant fish or storefronts saturated with hand-lettered slogans. His photography always favors the subject, taking great pains to exclude distraction. You will not see a person or a car in his work (unless, that is, it’s a picture of the lamented spindle of cars from Berwyn, Illinois, or similar subjects). That’s not to say he excludes context. Adjacent landscape, be it natural or commercial, typically has a strong presence.

JAMES CASTLE: PO RTR AIT OF A N A R TIST Written, directed and produced by Jeffrey Wolf. 53 minutes, 2008, Foundation for Self-Taught American Artists (Available from amazon.com)

Sentimentality does not. Aware as he is that his material is fast disappearing, his photographic approach is never overwrought. He favors straight-on views, letting the native richness in his subjects’ colors and content tell their own story. This latest edition of Margolies’ work, from art publisher Taschen, does justice to his photos while offering an informative introduction by Patton, himself a contributor to the old highway renaissance with his 1986 book Open Road: Celebration of the American Highway. Patton traces interest in the commercial landscape back from the 1970s to Evans and other photographers of the Depression era. It’s interesting to see that this kind of material appealed not only to Evans but also to Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange, although even Evans’ enthusiasm pales in comparison with Margolies’ all-consuming commitment. — W ILLIAM S WI SLOW

But it wasn’t all sadness and despair. Castle’s Cubist-like constructed figures of people and animals and his “bundles” of collected items tied up in colorful cloths display a whimsical, playful side to his personality. His vibrant yet hazy and dreamy impressionist works, mainly of the house he lived in during the latter part of his life, are evidence that Castle was constantly exploring new avenues for his creativity and personal expression. Similarly, his huge volume of works employing a playful and puzzle-like use of the alphabet and numbers are proof of the artist’s complex, detailed and very ordered way of life and the strong influence that his brief deaf school education had on him. The Japanese Kunizo Matsumoto cannot read nor write, yet he has invented a form of writing that is both beautiful and enigmatic. The American George Widener, who is capable of memorizing events of the last 1,500 years,

What the film captures so well is Castle’s careful, methodical and inventive creative process. Despite access to traditional artist’s tools, he stubbornly insisted on developing his own personal technique using primarily basic or found materials that gave him greater freedom to express himself (and perhaps provide observers with better insight into his insular world). Yet Castle, as his numerous works demonstrate, was very much an active observer of and participant in the world at large. can also predict the future, which he inscribes in

his ”magic squares.“ Fernand Desmoulin, a French engraver, draws with no light while the “spirits“ guide his hand.

with:

As revealed in filmmaker Jeffrey Wolf’s straightforward but penetrating documentary about the life and work of James Castle, the artist was perhaps an ideal example of an “outsider.” Born in Idaho in 1899, less than a decade after the state joined the union, Castle was deaf at birth. Though cared for by a loving family and friends until his death in 1977, he lived a somewhat isolated life in a hardscrabble, unforgiving rural Western environment. His early obsession with making art resulted in an astounding output of drawings, simple paintings and avant–garde-looking constructions that reflected and provided insight into his own personal world. Castle’s bleak, desolate landscapes and sorrowful interior drawings—most of which he made on cardboard, napkins or self-made paper with his own stove soot and saliva mixture—were his intimate form of communication and a vehicle for expressing his feelings, thoughts and, perhaps, loneliness.

Henry Darger Gabriel Joaquim Dos Santos Adolphe-Julien Fouré Zdenek Kosek Alexandre Lobanov Helen Martins Kunizo Matsumoto Simon Rodia George Widener Purvis Young

The Czech Zdenek Kosek sits for weeks, looking through

his window, with no food or sleep. He records all sounds and movements around him, fearing that if he stops, the world would cease to exist.

Rouge Ciel tells the story of these artists out of the norms, visionaries who set ablaze our spirit and shake up our ways of thinking. It shows how these women and men, often crushed by life, have succeeded in reconstructing themselves,

interviews of:

thanks to artistic creation.

Manuel Anceau Jean Dubuffet Phillys Kind Jean-Louis Lanoux Randall Morris Lucienne Peiry Jennifer Pinto Safian Barbara Safarova Gérard Schreiner Michel Thévoz

It also features the interviews of writers, philosophers,

Still, James Castle: Portrait of an Artist is an invaluable and important introduction and rewarding analysis of an extraordinary and singular artist whose works we are only now just beginning to truly understand and appreciate. —SERGIO MIMS

R OU G E C I E L (RE D S K Y ) Written and directed by Bruno Decharme and produced by Barbara Safarova. 93 minutes, 2009, in French with English subtitles. DVDs may be purchased via e-mail: info@systemeb.eu.

an essay on art brut by bruno decharme

As Phil Patton’s introduction to John Margolies, Roadside America points out, love of this stuff was not entirely new, and most notably anticipated in Walker Evans’ many photos of mundane signs and commercial buildings. It took decades before Evans’ taste was vindicated, though, a process that started in earnest with John Baeder’s photorealistic diner paintings (published in 1978 as Diners) as well as Charles Jencks’ tribute to eccentric tract homes, Daydream Houses of Los Angeles, also 1978. That was only a year after Venturi’s book and a year after Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood began their long-term tribute to the vernacular food those diners served. Meanwhile, fast food architecture got its due the next year with White Towers, by Paul Hirshorn and Steven Izenour (turning up again), and 1979’s American Diner, by Richard J.S. Gutman and Elliott Kaufman.

fueled appreciation of Route 66 and other tourist highways that resonate with the childhood memories of Baby Boomers. The old highways movement is possessed of its own charm and has helped turn up lots of great places. But it tends to be more about recapturing a feeling than about art or artists.

w w w. a b c d - a r t b r u t . o r g

as to changing fashion and economics. Generational change was also at work as post-modernism emerged to contest modernist views of what constituted embarrassing junk.

Rouge Ciel, An Essay On Art Brut is at the essence of the mission of abcd (art brut connaissance & diffusion.) Nourished by the exceptional richness of its collection, this association came to life through the inspiration of the filmmaker and collector Bruno Decharme, and carries out its research through exhibitions, publications and the production of films.

Book Reviews (continued)

systeme b & abcd present

psychoanalysts and art amateurs who have influenced the perception of art brut.

an essay on art brut

produced & published by: Systeme B www.systemeb.eu

DVD 9 16:9 & 4:3 compatible 93 minutes english version audio Dolby Digital 5.1 & stereo 2.0

© Systeme B, 2010. All rights of the producer and of the owner of the work reproduced reserved. Unauthorized copying, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting prohibited.

A film that shatters some generally acknowledged ideas about art and creation

by Bruno Decharme

Dolby and the double-D symbol

are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories

graphic design: Francis Lachance

Because Castle barely wrote anything during his lifetime, the film has no written materials, records or other evidence to show us Castle’s true character. Instead, it relies on the testimony of relatives and art curators and historians to provide insight into this unusual artist. As a result, watching the film is a little frustrating, because we’re never sure we’re getting a complete grasp of the man. Though the experts and relatives provide a solid understanding of Castle’s personality and the underlying messages in his works, the film presents him as free of faults, a gentle soul who was seemingly without worry or burdens, when his works clearly show that the opposite was likely true.

What exactly is outsider art? Does it really exist? And if it does, who determines what kind of art can be so categorized? If there is such a thing, can it truly be considered as legitimate, established art or does it exist in a unique sphere of its own, separate from what may be considered more conventional art? And how does outsider art compare with art brut? Are they one and the same, or are there distinct differences between them? These questions and others are at the center of Rouge Ciel (Red Sky), a kinetic and visually dazzling documentary by filmmaker and well-known art brut collector Bruno Decharme. Focusing exclusively on art brut (rough or raw art)—and dismissing through some brief interviews with critics and art experts The Outsider 43


Movie Reviews

In 1981 came California Crazy by Jim Heimann—and The End of the Road: Vanishing Highway Architecture in America, the ground-breaking survey by Margolies, perhaps the greatest exponent of roadside art. The books by Heimann and Margolies were both modest paperbacks, their formats too small to do justice to their photographic content. Margolies’ was a mere 94 pages, but there were many more volumes to come from this prolific hunter and gatherer of roadside images. Now, John Margolies, Roadside America is a fantastic summing up of 30 years of labor. His aesthetic clarity contrasts with the thread of roadside mania that most fully entered mainstream culture: a nostalgia-

42 T he Ou tsider

Margolies also can be distinguished from the post-modernist fascination with decoding a world of signs and symbols formerly treated as opaque cultural noise. A scholarly work like Karal Ann Marling’s 1984 The Colossus of Roads: Myth and Symbol along the America Highway has, like many of the old-highway books, its own virtues. Margolies tends to focus on what the material can say for itself, with neither nostalgia nor academic overlay. What comes through powerfully in every image is an intelligent, sensitive appreciation for the creativity of ordinary people and a passion that connects to the concurrent resurgence of interest in vernacular art, whether defined as “contemporary American folk” or “outsider.” In both cases you see a fanatical search for artistic expression rarely recognized (even by its makers) as artistic or even expressive. And if appreciation of selftaught art uncovers the creativity of thousands of talents whose efforts would otherwise be invisible, recognition of the art in America’s roadside vernacular can transform the commercial landscape from a dreary vista of self-serving signage into something that is endlessly fascinating in its aesthetic and cultural dimensions. Margolies traveled the country from at least 1975 collecting images of roadside art the way others trolled flea markets and back roads looking for folk artists. His eye for the unusual and interesting is fantastic, whether it be hand-built mini-golf courses,

pig-shaped barbecue stands, giant fish or storefronts saturated with hand-lettered slogans. His photography always favors the subject, taking great pains to exclude distraction. You will not see a person or a car in his work (unless, that is, it’s a picture of the lamented spindle of cars from Berwyn, Illinois, or similar subjects). That’s not to say he excludes context. Adjacent landscape, be it natural or commercial, typically has a strong presence.

JAMES CASTLE: PO RTR AIT OF A N A R TIST Written, directed and produced by Jeffrey Wolf. 53 minutes, 2008, Foundation for Self-Taught American Artists (Available from amazon.com)

Sentimentality does not. Aware as he is that his material is fast disappearing, his photographic approach is never overwrought. He favors straight-on views, letting the native richness in his subjects’ colors and content tell their own story. This latest edition of Margolies’ work, from art publisher Taschen, does justice to his photos while offering an informative introduction by Patton, himself a contributor to the old highway renaissance with his 1986 book Open Road: Celebration of the American Highway. Patton traces interest in the commercial landscape back from the 1970s to Evans and other photographers of the Depression era. It’s interesting to see that this kind of material appealed not only to Evans but also to Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange, although even Evans’ enthusiasm pales in comparison with Margolies’ all-consuming commitment. — W ILLIAM S WI SLOW

But it wasn’t all sadness and despair. Castle’s Cubist-like constructed figures of people and animals and his “bundles” of collected items tied up in colorful cloths display a whimsical, playful side to his personality. His vibrant yet hazy and dreamy impressionist works, mainly of the house he lived in during the latter part of his life, are evidence that Castle was constantly exploring new avenues for his creativity and personal expression. Similarly, his huge volume of works employing a playful and puzzle-like use of the alphabet and numbers are proof of the artist’s complex, detailed and very ordered way of life and the strong influence that his brief deaf school education had on him. The Japanese Kunizo Matsumoto cannot read nor write, yet he has invented a form of writing that is both beautiful and enigmatic. The American George Widener, who is capable of memorizing events of the last 1,500 years,

What the film captures so well is Castle’s careful, methodical and inventive creative process. Despite access to traditional artist’s tools, he stubbornly insisted on developing his own personal technique using primarily basic or found materials that gave him greater freedom to express himself (and perhaps provide observers with better insight into his insular world). Yet Castle, as his numerous works demonstrate, was very much an active observer of and participant in the world at large. can also predict the future, which he inscribes in

his ”magic squares.“ Fernand Desmoulin, a French engraver, draws with no light while the “spirits“ guide his hand.

with:

As revealed in filmmaker Jeffrey Wolf’s straightforward but penetrating documentary about the life and work of James Castle, the artist was perhaps an ideal example of an “outsider.” Born in Idaho in 1899, less than a decade after the state joined the union, Castle was deaf at birth. Though cared for by a loving family and friends until his death in 1977, he lived a somewhat isolated life in a hardscrabble, unforgiving rural Western environment. His early obsession with making art resulted in an astounding output of drawings, simple paintings and avant–garde-looking constructions that reflected and provided insight into his own personal world. Castle’s bleak, desolate landscapes and sorrowful interior drawings—most of which he made on cardboard, napkins or self-made paper with his own stove soot and saliva mixture—were his intimate form of communication and a vehicle for expressing his feelings, thoughts and, perhaps, loneliness.

Henry Darger Gabriel Joaquim Dos Santos Adolphe-Julien Fouré Zdenek Kosek Alexandre Lobanov Helen Martins Kunizo Matsumoto Simon Rodia George Widener Purvis Young

The Czech Zdenek Kosek sits for weeks, looking through

his window, with no food or sleep. He records all sounds and movements around him, fearing that if he stops, the world would cease to exist.

Rouge Ciel tells the story of these artists out of the norms, visionaries who set ablaze our spirit and shake up our ways of thinking. It shows how these women and men, often crushed by life, have succeeded in reconstructing themselves,

interviews of:

thanks to artistic creation.

Manuel Anceau Jean Dubuffet Phillys Kind Jean-Louis Lanoux Randall Morris Lucienne Peiry Jennifer Pinto Safian Barbara Safarova Gérard Schreiner Michel Thévoz

It also features the interviews of writers, philosophers,

Still, James Castle: Portrait of an Artist is an invaluable and important introduction and rewarding analysis of an extraordinary and singular artist whose works we are only now just beginning to truly understand and appreciate. —SERGIO MIMS

R OU G E C I E L (RE D S K Y ) Written and directed by Bruno Decharme and produced by Barbara Safarova. 93 minutes, 2009, in French with English subtitles. DVDs may be purchased via e-mail: info@systemeb.eu.

an essay on art brut by bruno decharme

As Phil Patton’s introduction to John Margolies, Roadside America points out, love of this stuff was not entirely new, and most notably anticipated in Walker Evans’ many photos of mundane signs and commercial buildings. It took decades before Evans’ taste was vindicated, though, a process that started in earnest with John Baeder’s photorealistic diner paintings (published in 1978 as Diners) as well as Charles Jencks’ tribute to eccentric tract homes, Daydream Houses of Los Angeles, also 1978. That was only a year after Venturi’s book and a year after Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood began their long-term tribute to the vernacular food those diners served. Meanwhile, fast food architecture got its due the next year with White Towers, by Paul Hirshorn and Steven Izenour (turning up again), and 1979’s American Diner, by Richard J.S. Gutman and Elliott Kaufman.

fueled appreciation of Route 66 and other tourist highways that resonate with the childhood memories of Baby Boomers. The old highways movement is possessed of its own charm and has helped turn up lots of great places. But it tends to be more about recapturing a feeling than about art or artists.

w w w. a b c d - a r t b r u t . o r g

as to changing fashion and economics. Generational change was also at work as post-modernism emerged to contest modernist views of what constituted embarrassing junk.

Rouge Ciel, An Essay On Art Brut is at the essence of the mission of abcd (art brut connaissance & diffusion.) Nourished by the exceptional richness of its collection, this association came to life through the inspiration of the filmmaker and collector Bruno Decharme, and carries out its research through exhibitions, publications and the production of films.

Book Reviews (continued)

systeme b & abcd present

psychoanalysts and art amateurs who have influenced the perception of art brut.

an essay on art brut

produced & published by: Systeme B www.systemeb.eu

DVD 9 16:9 & 4:3 compatible 93 minutes english version audio Dolby Digital 5.1 & stereo 2.0

© Systeme B, 2010. All rights of the producer and of the owner of the work reproduced reserved. Unauthorized copying, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting prohibited.

A film that shatters some generally acknowledged ideas about art and creation

by Bruno Decharme

Dolby and the double-D symbol

are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories

graphic design: Francis Lachance

Because Castle barely wrote anything during his lifetime, the film has no written materials, records or other evidence to show us Castle’s true character. Instead, it relies on the testimony of relatives and art curators and historians to provide insight into this unusual artist. As a result, watching the film is a little frustrating, because we’re never sure we’re getting a complete grasp of the man. Though the experts and relatives provide a solid understanding of Castle’s personality and the underlying messages in his works, the film presents him as free of faults, a gentle soul who was seemingly without worry or burdens, when his works clearly show that the opposite was likely true.

What exactly is outsider art? Does it really exist? And if it does, who determines what kind of art can be so categorized? If there is such a thing, can it truly be considered as legitimate, established art or does it exist in a unique sphere of its own, separate from what may be considered more conventional art? And how does outsider art compare with art brut? Are they one and the same, or are there distinct differences between them? These questions and others are at the center of Rouge Ciel (Red Sky), a kinetic and visually dazzling documentary by filmmaker and well-known art brut collector Bruno Decharme. Focusing exclusively on art brut (rough or raw art)—and dismissing through some brief interviews with critics and art experts The Outsider 43


the outsider art movement as being disingenuous or inaccurate—the film explores the history of and controversy surrounding the genre. The term art brut, which was coined by French artist, art dealer and showman Jean Dubuffet in the 1940s, has been most frequently employed to describe works created by people who are in some way mentally unbalanced or challenged. Some are insane, while others may have conditions such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome that isolate them from mainstream society. Operating in relative solitude, outside conventional influences from the art world, their visions, dreams and nightmares spur them to powerful expressions of their inner worlds. The film uses a variety of techniques to tell the stories of 11 art brut artists. There are inventive animated segments, experts discussing the artists and their creations and, in some cases, longer, documentarystyle portions showcasing the artists themselves and their creative processes.

Among those featured are the American George Widener (b. 1962), who has Asperger’s syndrome and possesses a remarkable memory for dates and unusual calculating abilities—and whose artworks include detailed, precise, mathematically based calendars; and Czech artist Zdenek Kosek (b. 1949), who, never leaving his apartment for weeks, records in surrealistic detail all the sights and sounds he observes from his window. The film also examines the work of Chicago artist Henry Darger (1892-1973) —whose tiny apartment room and its contents are on permanent exhibition at Intuit—and his visionary but disturbing magnum opus, In The Realms of the Unreal. But at the film’s core is the question of what constitutes outsider art and why certain artists are placed in that category. The film’s view is that “outsider” is a false or inaccurate term, because it segregates and unfairly labels, in a negative way, talented artists who do not comfortably fit within the more traditional, established definition of an artist. It therefore has the

undesired effect of making them seem less worthy or valuable than other artists. But does it? Granted, the term outsider can seem dismissive. But it also can be argued that it gives artists such as Darger, Adolf Wölfli, Purvis Young and Ulysses Davis a distinctive and important label to categorize their work. And if the basic function of artists is to follow their voice and find their own way of expressing themselves, then the label outsider is just as legitimate as those applied to more mainstream artists. Rouge Ciel, which introduces a new chapter in this history of Dubuffet and the art brut movement, is a captivating look at the unique world of a certain group of outsider artists. Though it is definitely not the be-all, end-all final word on outsider art, it is a fast-paced, wild and fascinating examination of a genre that is as complex and emotionally powerful as those that fill art museums the world over. —SERGIO MIMS

Meet Intuit’s Major Donors Despite the economic downturn, Intuit enjoyed a good year thanks to the dedication of our devoted supporters. The generosity of individuals, foundations and board members enabled us to continue our world-class exhibitions, create informative publications and award-winning education programs, and build one of the finest collections of self-taught and visionary art in America. We are pleased to recognize our esteemed contributors during the 2009 calendar year.

President’s Circle $10,000+

Benefactor $1,200-$2,499

The Alphawood Foundation Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development Judith & Patrick Blackburn Chicago Community Trust Lloyd A. Fry Foundation Eugenie & Lael Johnson The MacArthur Fund for the Arts and Culture at the Prince Foundation Jan Petry Polk Bros. Foundation Robert A. Roth Terra Foundation for American Art

Mark C. Bold Nancy Gerrie & Rich Bowen Leslie Buchbinder Marjorie & Harvey Freed Ruth Horwich Ruth DeYoung Kohler Carol & Robert Lifton Angela Lustig & Dale Taylor Angie Mills Judith Newton Cindy & Mike Noland Anthony Petullo Foundation Jerry J. Stefl Lisa Stone & Don Howlett Terri & Alan Sweig David Syrek Janet Williams & Ralph Concepcion

Visionary Circle $3,500-$9,999

1867 N Clybourn Ave | Lincoln Park | 773.248.2800 artistsframeservice.com | free parking OutsiderAd:Layout 1

8/9/10

4:09 PM

Page 2

Jimmy Hedges

Rising Fawn Folk Art

Artistic Spirit A GALLERY WITH VISION

Gallery and Sculpture Garden

Lookout Mountain, GA - near Chattanooga, TN

It was great to see so many of you in Harbert at the Outsiders Outside Art Fair! Cross’roads Blues

Shane Campbell

423-413-0146 www.RisingFawnFolkArt.com

Davy Marshall, Crown of Thorns

Featuring original work by visionary artists who have a compulsion to create. Located at 10 Storehouse Row, The Navy Yard at Noisette, North Charleston, SC. Open by chance or appointment, 843-579-0149.

www.artisticspiritgallery.com • info@artisticspiritgallery.com

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Patron City Arts 3 $500-$1,199 Cathryn E. Albrecht Illinois Arts Council John Cain Terry Glover Susann E. Craig John R. Houlsby Foundation Tracy Dillard Judy A. Saslow The Donnelley Foundation Nikki Will Stein & Fred Stein Salli Eley Janet Franz & William Swislow Sue Eleuterio & Tom Sourlis Gary R. Zickel Sandra & Gerald Eskin Betsey & Sam Farber Susan & Gary Alan Fine Leadership Circle Foundation to Promote Self-Taught Art $2,500-$3,499 Robert Grossett Diane & Gerald Hansen Barbara & Russell Bowman Dorianne & John Venator Cleo F. Wilson

Irving Harris Foundation Thomas Isenberg Steven Johnson Sara & Chris Julsrud Rachel Kohler & Mark Hoplamazian Willa & Scott Lang Joseph Lombard Kevin E. Lyle Barbara & Kent Manning E. Bruce Mumford, Jr. Aurie Pennick Ricco Maresca Gallery Lois & Richard Rosenthal Gretchen Saegh Ellen & Richard Sandor Santa Fe Weaving Gallery Rebecca Sive & Steve Tomashefsky Jennifer & Jeffrey Spitz Gigi Spratley & Jack Waltrip Micki Beth Stiller Dee & Ron Tevonian

In-Kind Contributors Artists Frame Service Joe Darrow John Faier The Icon Group Lowercase, Inc. Mark Michelson Ravenswood Events Ruzika & Associates Ltd. David Syrek


the outsider art movement as being disingenuous or inaccurate—the film explores the history of and controversy surrounding the genre. The term art brut, which was coined by French artist, art dealer and showman Jean Dubuffet in the 1940s, has been most frequently employed to describe works created by people who are in some way mentally unbalanced or challenged. Some are insane, while others may have conditions such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome that isolate them from mainstream society. Operating in relative solitude, outside conventional influences from the art world, their visions, dreams and nightmares spur them to powerful expressions of their inner worlds. The film uses a variety of techniques to tell the stories of 11 art brut artists. There are inventive animated segments, experts discussing the artists and their creations and, in some cases, longer, documentarystyle portions showcasing the artists themselves and their creative processes.

Among those featured are the American George Widener (b. 1962), who has Asperger’s syndrome and possesses a remarkable memory for dates and unusual calculating abilities—and whose artworks include detailed, precise, mathematically based calendars; and Czech artist Zdenek Kosek (b. 1949), who, never leaving his apartment for weeks, records in surrealistic detail all the sights and sounds he observes from his window. The film also examines the work of Chicago artist Henry Darger (1892-1973) —whose tiny apartment room and its contents are on permanent exhibition at Intuit—and his visionary but disturbing magnum opus, In The Realms of the Unreal. But at the film’s core is the question of what constitutes outsider art and why certain artists are placed in that category. The film’s view is that “outsider” is a false or inaccurate term, because it segregates and unfairly labels, in a negative way, talented artists who do not comfortably fit within the more traditional, established definition of an artist. It therefore has the

undesired effect of making them seem less worthy or valuable than other artists. But does it? Granted, the term outsider can seem dismissive. But it also can be argued that it gives artists such as Darger, Adolf Wölfli, Purvis Young and Ulysses Davis a distinctive and important label to categorize their work. And if the basic function of artists is to follow their voice and find their own way of expressing themselves, then the label outsider is just as legitimate as those applied to more mainstream artists. Rouge Ciel, which introduces a new chapter in this history of Dubuffet and the art brut movement, is a captivating look at the unique world of a certain group of outsider artists. Though it is definitely not the be-all, end-all final word on outsider art, it is a fast-paced, wild and fascinating examination of a genre that is as complex and emotionally powerful as those that fill art museums the world over. —SERGIO MIMS

Meet Intuit’s Major Donors Despite the economic downturn, Intuit enjoyed a good year thanks to the dedication of our devoted supporters. The generosity of individuals, foundations and board members enabled us to continue our world-class exhibitions, create informative publications and award-winning education programs, and build one of the finest collections of self-taught and visionary art in America. We are pleased to recognize our esteemed contributors during the 2009 calendar year.

President’s Circle $10,000+

Benefactor $1,200-$2,499

The Alphawood Foundation Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development Judith & Patrick Blackburn Chicago Community Trust Lloyd A. Fry Foundation Eugenie & Lael Johnson The MacArthur Fund for the Arts and Culture at the Prince Foundation Jan Petry Polk Bros. Foundation Robert A. Roth Terra Foundation for American Art

Mark C. Bold Nancy Gerrie & Rich Bowen Leslie Buchbinder Marjorie & Harvey Freed Ruth Horwich Ruth DeYoung Kohler Carol & Robert Lifton Angela Lustig & Dale Taylor Angie Mills Judith Newton Cindy & Mike Noland Anthony Petullo Foundation Jerry J. Stefl Lisa Stone & Don Howlett Terri & Alan Sweig David Syrek Janet Williams & Ralph Concepcion

Visionary Circle $3,500-$9,999

1867 N Clybourn Ave | Lincoln Park | 773.248.2800 artistsframeservice.com | free parking OutsiderAd:Layout 1

8/9/10

4:09 PM

Page 2

Jimmy Hedges

Rising Fawn Folk Art

Artistic Spirit A GALLERY WITH VISION

Gallery and Sculpture Garden

Lookout Mountain, GA - near Chattanooga, TN

It was great to see so many of you in Harbert at the Outsiders Outside Art Fair! Cross’roads Blues

Shane Campbell

423-413-0146 www.RisingFawnFolkArt.com

Davy Marshall, Crown of Thorns

Featuring original work by visionary artists who have a compulsion to create. Located at 10 Storehouse Row, The Navy Yard at Noisette, North Charleston, SC. Open by chance or appointment, 843-579-0149.

www.artisticspiritgallery.com • info@artisticspiritgallery.com

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Patron City Arts 3 $500-$1,199 Cathryn E. Albrecht Illinois Arts Council John Cain Terry Glover Susann E. Craig John R. Houlsby Foundation Tracy Dillard Judy A. Saslow The Donnelley Foundation Nikki Will Stein & Fred Stein Salli Eley Janet Franz & William Swislow Sue Eleuterio & Tom Sourlis Gary R. Zickel Sandra & Gerald Eskin Betsey & Sam Farber Susan & Gary Alan Fine Leadership Circle Foundation to Promote Self-Taught Art $2,500-$3,499 Robert Grossett Diane & Gerald Hansen Barbara & Russell Bowman Dorianne & John Venator Cleo F. Wilson

Irving Harris Foundation Thomas Isenberg Steven Johnson Sara & Chris Julsrud Rachel Kohler & Mark Hoplamazian Willa & Scott Lang Joseph Lombard Kevin E. Lyle Barbara & Kent Manning E. Bruce Mumford, Jr. Aurie Pennick Ricco Maresca Gallery Lois & Richard Rosenthal Gretchen Saegh Ellen & Richard Sandor Santa Fe Weaving Gallery Rebecca Sive & Steve Tomashefsky Jennifer & Jeffrey Spitz Gigi Spratley & Jack Waltrip Micki Beth Stiller Dee & Ron Tevonian

In-Kind Contributors Artists Frame Service Joe Darrow John Faier The Icon Group Lowercase, Inc. Mark Michelson Ravenswood Events Ruzika & Associates Ltd. David Syrek


Join Intuit today at www.art.org

Intuit is open to the public Tuesday – Saturday 11 am–5 pm Thursday 11 am–7:30 pm Admission is $5, Members Free

January 21-May 14, 2011

In celebration of Intuit’s 20th anniversary, curator Roger Manley will draw from the art center’s permanent collection and promised gifts for an exhibition that will explore a range of inspired responses to struggle as generated by self-taught artists. Architecture of Hope also will commemorate Intuit’s founding two decades ago and its present manifestation, still infused by the spirit that followed its founders’ surprising undertaking.

ARCH ITE CTURE O F HO PE — THE TR EA SURE S O F INTU IT

Up comin g :

T 312.243.9088 F 312.243.9089 www.art.org

756 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, Illinois 60642

Published once a year by Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

The Outsider Non-Profit

Permit No. 3388

Champlin, MN

PAID

U.S. Postage

The Outsider  

Fall 2010 A publication of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art The Outsider provides in-depth coverage of Intuit's exhibits, p...

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