Folk Art

Continued cleaning out the barn the point that my mouth is black with actual dirt- ewwww! It's a good thing I was out of the house though since Brent just got some sort of music recording software and the living quarters have become a makeshift (loud ass) studio overnight! In between these activities, we did find time to head over to Reading, PA for a quick lunch and visit to the Outsider Folk Art Gallery in Goggleworks arts complex. I wasn't really familiar with the different levels of outsider-y folk art until I started being involved in Brent's work. You see Brent, being that he didn't study or pursue art in an academic way, is considered to be among this weird group of artists and there are many, many categories within... We have art brut. The self taught. The visionary/intuitive. Tramp art. The outsider. Regardless of what label you want to choose, a lot of the work is really amazing; visceral, emotional outpourings of genuine creative, and sometimes genuinely psychotic, ideas.

The show currently up in Reading was called Raw Edges: Jim Bloom and Purvis Young, two very different painters whose work does seem to compliment eachother, mainly through similar comments on the grim human condition. I have never liked Purvis Young, even despite the fact I have met many of his fans/collectors whose opinions I trust but, this time around, I think I finally got a glimpse of what they see: unapologetic, symbolic, raw expressions of whatever the altered state the artist's mind is in. Each painting seemed like some kind of experience of Young's (religious tilted) ego; halos on the good, copulating figurative couples on the edges, the repetitive imagery becoming meditative, holy in shape & texture, everyday images exalted in crude beatific form (photo middle at right). It kind of felt good to finally get inside this type of makes me wonder about myself too, my own psyche and experiences that are expanding my understanding of this type of art- an introspection that I think really good art can ignite. Then, there was Jim Bloom.

Bloom's lines (pictured at top and bottom) seem familiar (deKooning? Guston? Bacon?) but aren't, his layered paintings and drawings (usually with superimposed textural collaged elements) were so freaking complex I can't even begin to think how they are crafted? Layer after layer of work molded into grotesque figures, feeling more like the way somebody molds a sculpture out of clay or something....the dark, near cartoon quality of the pieces really makes me wonder why this dude isn't more popular? It seems like the contemporary art crowd would revel in his brightly colored renderings of the disgusting human race?! Really wonderful, you can almost touch the despair, heartbreak and vulgarity this artist sees- a more bleak thematic outlook than Young maybe but along the same lines of human urges and suffering. Bloom's strong imagery, and the HUGE amounts of work in the show, make me hope he becomes some sort of legend in his own way..maybe he has though.

And that's the problem with the outsider-y labels folks! Outsider art is still a sort of ghetto for the talented, keeping a label on something, hampering the bounds of success. There are few ready to bridge the gap between what is inside and what is outside the art world and I really don't get the hesitation? Is it because supporting the "untrained" is a threat to entire industries of art schooling? Or is it some kind sneaky exploitation of those living outside of the "art world?" I don't know. But I do know that real artist's work can surpass labels and that I hope more people are willing to applaud anything wonderful or beautiful regardless of the credentials behind the person who made it.



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.