A compendium of craft masquerading as art, art masquerading as craft, and craft extending its middle finger.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Outside the Lines

I routinely start my day with a visit to the online news sites SALON.COM and SLATE.COM. Slate, in particular always offers up a wide array of articles about politics, history, pop culture, and ephemera. At least once a week, Slate offers up a slideshow, often dealing with art or architecture, so imagine how pleased I was when I found today's offering: a feature about Obsessive Drawing, the new show at the American Folk Museum. As somebody who is interested in craft, I think a lot about the nature of outsider art. I struggle with priveleging the so called "purity" of an outsider's vision, or even sticking them with the "outsider" tag. As I witnessed earlier in the year when I attended the Atlanta Folk Fest (or "faux"-lk fest, as I like to callit ), dealers tend to hype the disabilities and scandalous backstories of the artists to promote them. I'm as tittilated by a good story as the next man, and ultimately, I believe such information is valuable to the artwork, so I've come to the conclusion that an appreciation of "outsider" art is perfectly fine, as long as an attitude of curiosity and questioning is maintained. In the Slate article, author Francine Prose has this astute observation to offer about our quest for "pure" artistic vision:

The conception of the artist as the marginalized outsider-looking-in was once so common as to be a cliché but now has been mostly replaced by that of the artist as the ultimate insider: rich, famous, celebrated, and routinely invited to all the most glamorous openings and parties. Perhaps it's not coincidental that the surge of interest in naive art occurred during the 1980s and '90s, when a change in the art world challenged existing notions of what it meant to be an artist. A new generation of painters—Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons, Francesco Clemente, and so forth—showed us that artists could not only earn tons of money but could also be, in significant ways, indistinguishable from actual rich people. A wealthy collector could invite them to dinner, ply them with expensive brandy and cigars, and never fear that, like Jackson Pollock, they might upset the other guests by urinating in the fireplace. As creativity began to seem inextricably connected with notions of career, resale value, and the "hotness" of one's gallery, people began to wonder: Whatever happened to the idea that artists labored for the pure love of art and without an eye on the European market? What about purity and authenticity? Where do we seek the spiritual heir of Van Gogh and all those other despised geniuses suffering in poverty? Maybe it's that guy living in a shack with his mama, hallucinating wildly and covering every available surface with polka dots and bottle caps.
Kind of makes you wish that you were an insane, impoverished, crippled southerner stuck in the bottom of a well churning out some pure vision, doesn't it?



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