A Look at Outsider Art, by Kristin Freeman

As the quilts of Gees Bend gathered interest from many quarters of society other than quilters, the term “outsider art” was used again and again in the media. Many years ago as a college student I took studio art classes and did not take any art history courses so this term intrigued and fascinated me as if it were a foreign language. I used Google and began a search that took me on many roads of exploration. The images presented on those pages of Google were as varied as the works of art in any major museum collection. There was not one form, style, media used nor distinctive coloration that flowed through the works pictured on those pages. One after the other I clicked and was drawn into the history of the creator of the art and gained a beginning of understanding of this genre or classification of art.

From a visit to the pages of “Raw Vision” came a definition that felt appropriate to me based on my beginning meanderings through this art form. Take time to visit the pages of information about outsider art on line and discover a world of variety and many delightful and well regarded works of art.

From the pages of Raw Vision on-line comes the following:

“Michel Thevoz, Curator of the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne has written the following:
<“Art Brut”, or “outsider art”, consists of works produced by people who for various reasons have not been culturally indoctrinated or

A firm distinction should be made between “art brut” and what is known as “naif art”. The naif or primitive painters remain within the mainstream of painting proper, even if they fail ingenuously to practise its style. However, they accept its subjects, technique (generally oils) and even its values, because they hope for public, if not official recognition. “Art brut” artists, on the other hand, make up their own techniques, often with new means and materials and they create their works for their own use, as a kind of private theatre. They choose subjects which are often enigmatic and they do not care about the good opinion of others, even keeping their work secret.”

At www.tracymckay.us the phrase “visionary or intuitive” art is used to describe outsider art that has as the subject matter of the works images of a spiritual or religious nature. I was attracted to the image, Logo, on the Google page, although I cannot say that image would be described by me as religious or spiritual. The nature of the design was similar to what I have seen in textile works, textured background with minimal inscribing on the ground.


Yesterday Pamela Allen wrote on the Quiltart list that she was inspired by outsider and subscribed to “Raw Vision”. Her work, in printmaking and in her work with fiber, inspires me to work from my own muse and explore my personal style more and more. Reading her post while I was preparing to put an article on the pages of Ragged Cloth was synchronistic, to say the least.

Here is a work by Louis Estape entitled Protection Mask that has a flavor reminiscent of some of Pamela’s work.


And this work, Three Heads Are Better Than One by Gerard Sendrey brings to mind the work of native people in the pacific northwest, British Columbia and Alaska.


And this last work to post today French Trained Dog Act by Frances “Lady Shalamar” Montague reminds of the work of Susan Shie, mentioned as well in Pamela’s post.


2 Responses to “A Look at Outsider Art, by Kristin Freeman”

  1. 1 judecowell November 20, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    These works and artists are new to me but I love them all. Great article! jude

  2. 2 Gerrie May 31, 2007 at 8:16 am

    My SIL, Dr Kristin Congdon, is a professor in the art department at Central Florida University. She is an expert in outsider art and has discovered many. She travels to the boonies of the south and the mid-west when she hears about someone. She would describe them as untrained and uneducated in art and design and having a compulsion to create art out of whatever they can get their hands on. Their home is filled with fabulous examples. One of the artists that she discovered, sends them a new painting every year.

    When we lived in NC, she told us about a book, titled, “Signs and Wonders”, a beautiful book of outside artists in North Carolina. When she came to visit us, we would venture out to find some of these artists and their installations.

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