I love this piece about outsider art, written after the Outsider Art Fair hit New York the weekend of January 28th-29th. If we need a pithy definition of outsider art, it refers to “art created outside the boundaries of official culture” (Wikipedia), such as art by self-taught, mentally disabled, or folk artists. But as the various quotes in this article demonstrate, it is a fraught term, which calls into question much more than they type of art it encompasses. If there’s outsider art, then there’s insider art, and there’s the insider art world that defines what is outsider art, but by nature, true outsider art resists definition. Often, it seems that the “insider” art world has a specific canon that is prescribed by art schools, art history, galleries, collectors, etc. Even when artists push boundaries, they are still working within an established framework.
Outsider (or whatever you want to call them) artists don’t regard these rules, however implicit they may be. They create for the sheer love or obsession for creating, which I think is why I (and many people) am so drawn to them. To me, the artists ways of thinking are so frank and evident in the work they produce. Often, outsider artwork feels more honest and personal, which is something I feel such a strong connection to as both an artist and a person who has a unique vision in this world (as we all are).
In terms of appreciating art, too, I think outsider art presents a worthy model: you don’t have to listen to anyone’s rules but your own. Dare to call something art, even if not everyone would agree with you. As some of the quotes suggest, outsider art is gaining in popularity and exposure, so hopefully there will be much more room for outsider artists and art lovers—and maybe even one day, we’ll all be outsiders.