Outsider Art refers to art created outside the boundaries of official culture, outside the established art scene. I first heard the term Outsider Art about a month ago when I saw an interview on facebook.
The Outsider Art Fair is this week in New York City (January 21-24) at the Metropolitan Pavilion.
In a New York Times Magazine article, I learned about the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California, where artists who have not had formal art education come to create. The work is considered more pure, raw, than mainstream art. Not always, but sometimes, the artists are physically or emotionally impaired.
In a Huffington Post article, Priscilla Frank discusses how a policeman learned to embrace his creative side.
I love this idea of self-taught art, art without academia.
Maybe it’s because in the eighties, I was accepted to the art program at NYU and things didn’t go well for me there.
In order to get in, I had to show a portfolio. I had to sit through a nerve-wracking interview. And when I got in, I was thrilled to be part of the New York City art community.
Until I wasn’t.
It didn’t go badly at first. In fact, during my first semester in the program, my drawing teacher appreciated and encouraged my style, which was heavily textured, strong contrast, little grey. And lots of white space. She didn’t judge the things I drew: a carrot peeler, an eggbeater, half a grapefruit.
You see I was 19, and newly married. That’s what I had in my apartment. That domesticity was my life.
My photography teacher showed black and white slides (with lots of grey) of a woman wearing a housecoat. This housewife was slumped on the couch, a broom near her side, a cigarette dangled from her lips. My teacher compared these photographs to my own, which told a different story of homemaking. In my photographs, my young son stood smiling and bottomless near a stacked dishwasher; and in a self-portrait, I proudly pushed out my pregnant belly.
The following semester, I had a male teacher. He was a prominent and respected figure in the school. He had a specific belief about art and artists. I didn’t fit into his schema. I was married with a child and I was economically well off, not a starving artist.
Soon enough I felt that I didn’t belong. I can’t tell you why he had such an influence over me but he did. And I learned years later, that he was fired because I wasn’t the only female student he’d bullied and shamed.
After I left the art program, I didn’t draw or paint for a long time. But years later, I made a few collages.