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Walking the Line at the Intuit Show of Outsider Art

By Arts & Culture, Uncategorized

By Laura Smith

The Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art was held from October 2-3 just above SAIC’s Gallery 2. As expected, the space was littered with thousands of little and big treasures, exhibited by dealers from both America and abroad–sculptures, drawings, paintings, dioramas, altars, quilts, tramp art, taxidermy dogs, and life-size, overall-clad trade figures poised to step down from their pedestals and interest you in a hoedown. It was all so much to take in, and the material ingenuity and inquisitiveness on display was remarkable. Need we be reminded that Pearl Art and Craft doesn’t need to provide for all your art-making needs? No, but it’s a nice reminder all the same.

Beyond the expected works by Henry Darger, Bill Traylor, and Lee Godie, there were many little objects made by anonymous artisans, as well as works by newly discovered ones. Chicago’s Carl Hammer Gallery and the Lindsay Gallery from Columbus, Ohio had on display a recent find, drawings by deceased South Bend, Indiana artist named Jacques de Du-Glass. By depicting intricately detailed renderings of buildings in his imaginary town of Lynxbourgh, Indiana, Du-Glass also re-envisioned his own genealogy and an ancestral father figure, neither of which existed in his real life. Other standouts included Austin-based artist Lance Letscher’s collages of book bindings on ledger sheets at Idaho’s J. Crist Gallery; the always dumbfounding and beautifully lit photographs of dolls by Morton Bartlett at Marion Harris; embroidered miniatures by Raymond Materson at New York’s American Primitive Gallery; Jennifer Harrison’s frosting-like oils of crowded Victorian homes at Austin’s Yard Dog Folk Art, and many, many more.

There was some interest in representing these artists as negotiating the border between fine art and “outsider” art traditions, as several of them, namely Letscher, embrace both. Although I am no expert on the “outsider” tradition, an important one in its own right, the self-taught artist is now being presented by some as less the eccentric recluse, as he or she has been historically and popularly perceived, and now one who chooses to work outside of the standard art historical tradition. It doesn’t really matter, after all. I know that Letscher just makes his work, regardless of whatever tradition claims him for its own. It just gives the artists more showing opportunities, no matter how you package it. And that can’t be but a very good thing.

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November 2004

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