What is Outsider Art?

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.

“Seeking a Definition of Outsider Art at the Outsider Art Fair” from Flavorwire

2 Responses to “What is Outsider Art?”

  1. Hello! I am Gregory Blackstock’s cousin and advocate, and I have learned a tremendous lot about “Outsider Art” by my association with his agent and his admirers. I think you would enjoy hearing how Philippe LeSpinasse, the man who did Greg’s film documentary for his exhibit at the Collection de l”art Brut in Switzerland described Art Brut: “This art has no mother or father, no sister or brother, and produces no offspring. The only one who could create this art is this one artist, at this particular moment in time. He can’t learn from someone else, and no one can learn from him.”

    Mr. LeSpinasse also said that, as art must express the emotion and the condition of the artist, how can anyone be arrogant enough to say whether it is ‘good’ or ‘not good’.


  2. Thanks for sharing! Gregory Blackstock’s work is so interesting and unique, but what I like about it and a lot of other outsider art (or any art, really) is how it is so easily relatable. I think the way he organizes information and objects in his work is very intuitive–it makes sense to me–and it’s nice to see the world represented to neatly and beautifully.

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