Saturday, February 12, 2011


Above:  Dale Jackson.  Below:  Cy Twombly.

Colin Rhodes' definition of "outsider art" might be my favorite.  In a New York Times article about the new Outsider Art Fair happening in NYC this weekend: “Pathology is not the defining criterion [for outsider art],” he said. For him, an outsider artist is not an amateur, just someone working outside the regular art world structures."

If that's the most appropriate definition, then a lot of time seems to be wasted in trying to figure out the meaning of "outsiderness."  Really we should try to understand more fully what it means to be an "insider artist."  Even though there is a sort of cache in defining yourself as an "outsider," the categorization depends on the power and hegemony of "insiderness" to exist.  It is always going to be the redheaded stepchild in a family of power-brokers.  Outsider = Kid's Table.  Insider = The Only Table That Matters.

In purposefully naming art "outsider" because it does not really exist to the power-brokers, purchasers and purveyors in the "regular art world," we seem to allow that art to become both an inspiration to insiders (check out how "outsider art" has influenced an insider artist like Tara Donovan, whether or not she talks about it) and a way for insider artists to reduce the playing field to pedigrees, networking, and well "insiderness."

Maybe the anxiety of what to call art that is unconventional and not about trends and art-history and fashion should be placed on the other side of the equation:  what is "insider art" and why should we care?