The museum’s current exhibition, Outsider Visions: Self-taught Southern Artists of the 20th Century, offers visitors a chance to observe a truly unique strain of American art. As Outsider art, the works on display reflect the visions of artists who worked and continue to work without formal training in the fine arts. Unencumbered by the constraints of tradition, their art represents a striving for a pure and deeply personal aesthetic. Even without a structured education, the works included in Outsider Visions reflect a wide range of subject matter, from contemplations on spirituality to austere studies of daily life.
Outsider Visions has proven to be a particularly timely exhibition, considering the precarious state of the American Folk Art Museum’s collection of non-canonical art produced in folk and Outsider traditions. A recent September 20 article in the New York Times detailed the unfortunate decline of the New York City based Museum, whose collection houses an encyclopedic array of Outsider and folk art masterpieces. Article author, Roberta Smith lamented the possible loss of the Museum. She writes:
“The Folk Art Museum’s erasure from New York’s cultural skyline would be a tremendous loss, for the city in general and for its role as a center of both art viewing and art making. A full-blooded expression of century’s worth of instinctive, self-taught artistry is crucial…”
In a final effort to keep its collection intact, the Museum’s Board of Trustees and its staff have announced an audacious plan to ensure the Museum’s operation for the next three fiscal years in its original home at Two Lincoln Square in Manhattan. Long-term survival of this cultural center will require attracting a broader public to visit the Museum and advocate for folk and Outsider art.
With Outsider Visions the Boca Raton Museum of Art hopes to advance the legitimacy and intrinsic value of Outsider art. Selecting works from the renowned collection of Ann and Ted Oliver, the curatorial team has crafted a show that offers viewers a chance to experience the immediacy of expression employed by these artists. Assistant Curator Kelli Bodle writes in the accompanying exhibition brochure, “Outsider art is a welcome reprieve full of earnest creation free from pretension.”
The value of Outsider Art and of collections like the Oliver’s or the American Folk Art Museum’s lie not in their celebrity or courtship with mainstream taste, but in their celebration of creativity for creativity’s sake, a value any observer can appreciate.