...an ode to outsider artists everywhere.
James Castle, Bill Traylor, George Widener, and Jean Dubuffet - all artist but in no sense of traditional terms. Outsider artists were considered outside the boundaries of official culture, which by today's standards has to be pretty out there. Early on, however, this was anyone from psych patients to children who developed skills outside of the mainstream art world. If you ever want to see some really interesting stuff, Google "outsider artwork psychiatric patients." They were self-taught, and their works were rough, raw, unpolished, but beautiful. Today, outsider art has been successfully marketed, creating a huge demand for folk art and the like.
This wave of enthusiasm begs the question, "Why are we drawn to outsider art?" My theory is centered around the cultural context with which the art is created. Much like other movements (Cubism, Dadasim, Constructivism, etc.), outsider art is a rejection of established values. How best to thumb your nose at mainstream art than by exalting the work of the clinically insane. Art, in this context, is in a perpetual race to stay outside of what is considered mainstream. Artists push boundaries, artists break rules, artists challenge our own perceptions. Being an outsider allows you to hover on the fringe of relevance and controversy, which resonates with our primal, rebellious instincts.
Much akin to religion and politics, there is always an outside fringe movement that challenges cultural norms. In this case, outsider art provokes the standard and strives to redefine the new normal...without becoming the norm. In religion and politics, this polarization becomes turbulent. In art, this polarization generates brilliance in technique, style, media, and subject matter. Outsider art challenges our understanding of the stylized imagery that we believe art to be.
Outsider artists also bring enjoyment in art in the most obscure places. They make your local coffee shop quaint and comfortable. They turn your local city markets into a treasure trove of unique and special finds. Supporting outsider art vindicates those individuals that continue to challenge the status quo in the most ad hoc and unpolished of ways. You also get a really good deal on a small oil painting from a dentist, a welded, steel figure from a mechanic, or a carved piece of driftwood from a retiree.