Sunday, August 17, 2008


With Christianity in all its most cockamamie forms as fervently popular in the South as liposuction and frozen yogurt are in Los Angeles, outsider art, which frequently features peculiar Christian subject matter, is an idiosyncratic, local tradition. A rural, religious upbringing often inspires the outsider artist to start painting his or her vision of the apocalypse involving wild turkeys descending from the heavens on pieces of scrap wood. He or she might be mentally challenged, hear voices or see visions. A non-religious outsider artist could be an outcast in a small town who collects hubcaps and kitchen utensils and twists them into robot-like creatures. The High Museum of Art in Atlanta has an exceptional assemblage of outsider art in their permanent collection, including a portion of the late Reverend Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, which can be viewed in Summerville, GA.

This weekend we went and checked out Folk Fest, an annual convention of galleries that specialize in folk art, about sixty percent of which could qualify as outsider art. This was as large a collection of outsider art as you’ll find in any museum. Though, it was all for sale and for the most part amazingly cheap, with regular folks buying it up in great quantities. As you’ll see in these photos, the most popular themes are: Elvis, Jesus, angels, chickens and other farm animals. You’ll also occasionally bump into a fucked-up clown holding a monkey in its lap while smoking a cigarette.

These face jugs are very common in the South. These little devil, goblin guys are a bit nicer than the usual ones you see in every antique store.
The Parade by J. Whipple

Three other works by J. Whipple

Daniel Johnston performed and had a booth at Folk Fest

Elvis with Teddy Bear

A customer

Some outsider art in the bathroom stall

1 comment:

Sheryl said...

I really like a lot of outsider art, but some... not so much. It's gotten to be quite the hipster thing to do, with richie white folks eating it up! I suppose the low-brow art movement into "high" art has something to do with it, but the snooty art world has always been that way.
By the way, I really would love to see Daniel Johnston! How was that?