Sunday, June 2, 2013

Outsider Art Exhibit: Part 2

On Thursday, I shared some photos of my favorite artists at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's exhibit, "Great and Mighty Things:  Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection." I've shown you six of the 27 artists I really enjoyed from the exhibit, and I have several more pieces that I want to share with you today. 

The exhibit's catalogue is an incredible book, by the way, with photos and information so complete that you will feel as though you went to the museum yourself.  It is available online, so you may want to consider adding it to your Gift Wish List!

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Top half of "Words of Jesus Only," by Howard Finster, 80-5/16x27-1/2 altogether;
painted on the reverse side of cut-out interior plywood paneling
There have actually been several books written about Howard Finster's art, and he seems to be included in just about every Outsider Art publication you pick up.  He created 47,000 works over his 25 year career, and he worked to save people through his art.  He preached at revivals and published religious writings over his lifetime, and caught the attention of popular culture when REM filmed a 1983 music video in his Paradise Garden, a place he created to spread his religious message through his art.  He even appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson! 

The Bonovitz collection included a couple of very interesting shadowboxes, in which Finster used multiple layers of glass to create a kind of three-dimensional effect to his work:
Model of a Space Hotel to Come, by Howard Finster, 1983
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"Two Blonde Women with Blue Checked Background," by Lee Godie, 23"x29",
opaque watercolor and ballpoint pen on primed canvas
Lee Godie was one of the few women whose works were included in this exhibit.  She was a Chicago artist who focused on portraits and still lifes.  She used to sell her works near local landmarks, and seems to have made quite a reputation for herself in her community. 
"Mr. Blue Bird," by Lee Godie, 26-1/2"x17-1/4", ballpoint pen ink on primed canvas
Some of her canvases were made from discarded window shades, which makes her a master example of re-use!
"Woman with Blue and Brown Sconces," by Lee Godie, opaque watercolor and ballpoint pen on primed canvas
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"Man and Woman Holding Hands," by Bill Traylor, c. 1939-1942,
graphite and colored pencil on tan cardboard faced with cream paper
Bill Traylor was born into slavery around 1853, and died in 1949.  He worked most of his life as a laborer once freed from slavery by the Emancipation Proclamation.  When he couldn't work anymore, he would spend his time drawing near the back door of a pool hall in Montgomery, Alabama.  He drew mainly on found materials, like pieces of cardboard boxes and old posters.  He got additional drawing supplies from a young artist named Charles Shannon, who advocated for his work, but always preferred rough, irregular cardboard as his drawing surface. 
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Part of "Filigree Drawing with Pen and Ink," by Consuelo Gonzalez Amezcua, 19-3/4"x16",
pen and colored inks on illustration board with collaged thin tan paper
Gonzalez Amezcua was born in Mexico, and grew up in Texas.  She worked in a Five-and-Dime, made art, and never married.
Detail
Her work reminds me of the current Zentangle craze, and I loved the simplicity of her use of ballpoint pen to fill in the spaces not covered with intricate designs.
"Butterly Fantasy," by Consuelo Gonzalez Amezcua
Detail; I guess we are not the first generation to feel the need to "put a bird on it"!
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Part of "Blue Monday (Reversal") by George Widener, 2010, 44"x80";
ballpoint and fiber-tipped pen inks over pieced papers
I think that George Widener is the only living artist featured in the Outsider Art exhibit.  He is a numerical savant with Asperger's Syndrome.  He turns his records of dates and numbers into patterned arrangements in his art.  As the exhibit catalog puts it, he "animates the mathematical sequences in his mind." 
Detail
The audio tour says that he shows a series of dates that will on Mondays for thousands of years.  For me, above all, I enjoyed the graphic nature of his work, not to mention the intricate detail.
Detail
Widener also has a fascination for certain catastrophes, especially the sinking of the Titanic.  The exhibit catalog explained that another man named George Widener went down with the ship, and the artist's 50th birthday fell on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy, making him especially feel its significance. 

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After seeing the exhibit, I feel like I and the people whose blogs I read are all engaged in our own form of outsider art.  Many of us lack any kind of formal training, and pursue art because of some internal need to exercise our creativity and see life from a creative point of view.  We don't run in professional artistic circles (even if we do very successfully create our own online artistic communities!).  The kinds of things that I saw at the museum are the kinds of things we are doing--using unorthodox materials, non-realistic representations of people, intricate designs in the spirit of Zentangle, art journaling on discarded library books--it's all here!

I feel as though Outsider Art by its very nature stretches our understanding of the definitions of the terms "art" and "artist," and can help us use those words even more freely about our own creative pursuits.

Thank you for letting me share this very meaningful art tour with you!

6 comments:

Carolyn Phillips said...

It has been fascinating seeing all these. Thanks for taking the time to blog it all so well.
I must admit I had the same thought about if what we all do means we are 'outsider artists' as well.

laurie said...

I also enjoyed learning more about these outsider artists. Sometimes I question why I feel compelled to make things when it is not my occupation - it's nice to know that others have felt this urge and succumbed, even if they were not artists by profession. Thank you for taking us along with you to the exhibit!

Janet said...

More fun art from your visit. I especially love the art of Consuelo Gonzalez Amezcua...maybe because I love to do zentangle drawings.

uncustomary said...

I love George Widener's work. :-)

Joyfulploys said...

Andria...thanks for sharing all these outsider artists! I like the drawing with the bird and enjoyed the lady who did early zentangles when they weren't called that.
Mary

Jane LaFazio said...

very cool! thanks for the tour. It looks like a fabulous exhibition.