Posts Tagged ‘outsider art’
August 5, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- You might, if you’re lucky, retire someday, and it’s never too early to start thinking about what you’ll do with all that free time. You may think you’ve got it all figured out—I’ll just build a wacky Disneyland spin-off in my backyard, you say to yourself. But that’s been done: “After retiring from a thirty-year career in auto manufacturing in the late eighties, [Dmytro] Szylak began work on his folk-art installation, tenuously mounted to the roof of the garage behind his Hamtramck duplex on Klinger Street and that of the adjoining property … Hamtramck Disneyland looms like a Cubist carnival. The superstructure is mostly wood, strung with lights and painted in the bright Ukrainian national colors of yellow and blue, as well as red, purple, and green. This forms the base for an avalanche of found objects—Szylak was seemingly obsessed with propellers and fans, American idols like Elvis, and particularly the type of blow-mold horses employed in bouncy toys for toddlers. An entire herd of them runs wild across the installation, and two of them rear up inside the arch constructed over the front gate—one of the only indicators on the street side of what lies behind the house.”
- Reviewing Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Brit Bennett looks at the difficulties inherent in telling stories about slavery: “The problem with the slave narrative is its predictability: A person is born in bondage to a cruel master; he or she observes a first whipping, struggles to obtain literacy, attempts to flee, fails, and later successfully escapes to the North. If the purpose of autobiography is to uniquely render a unique life, then slave narratives often feel formulaic, the narrators indistinct … Unlike white autobiographers, black authors could not expect that readers would approach their works on good faith—they anticipated a skeptical, if not hostile, audience. To make their stories seem authentic, ex-slave narrators came to rely on certain established patterns. ‘This was perhaps the greatest challenge to the imagination of the Afro-American autobiographer,’ Andrews writes. ‘The reception of his narrative as truth depended on the degree to which his artfulness could hide his art.’ ”
- There’s one slave narrative I’m not sure anyone predicted: Ghostwriter, the PBS children’s show from the nineties, where a bunch of Brooklyn kids solve mysteries by following a colorful, zippy phantasm-blob thing that draws their attention to the letters and words around them. Per Nick Ripatrazone, “After the series ended, the writer Kermit Frazier revealed that Ghostwriter was a runaway slave ‘killed by slave catchers and their dogs as he was teaching other runaway slaves how to read in the woods.’ Though viewers at the time wouldn’t have known this backstory, these tragic origins are also somehow fitting: During both his life and his existence as a spirit, Ghostwriter finds truth and freedom in words … Ghostwriter often focused on the humbling idea that literature—an endeavor sometimes seen as elitist or inaccessible—is for everyone and can bring people closer together.”
- Jill Soloway, of Transparent fame, is adapting Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick for TV—as Jason McBride writes, “she’ll be turning one of the most compelling cult novels of the last twenty years into a television show with the potential to be as groundbreaking in its examination of gender politics as her first … [Soloway] identified intensely with Kraus’s decision to use her own name, biography, and, as Soloway put it, her ‘horribleness.’ It helped her, she says, to reframe the shame she herself once felt about her TV writing: ‘I don’t know how to write about anything other than myself. I can’t write about dragons, I don’t care about crime, I don’t want to write a hospital show. I only want to write about somewhat unlikable Jewish women having really inappropriate ideas about life and sex.’ ”
- In which Edmund White comes to a sound conclusion about Nabokov: “I have recently reread Pale Fire (1962) which is, I realize only now, the great gay comic novel, an equally funny and sometimes tender portrait of a homosexual madman, Charles Kinbote … What is perhaps the funniest scene involves a putative assassin, Gradus, and a lad named Gordon. Since this is a moment completely imagined by Kinbote (and, by any standard, not observed), the king’s imagination runs wild. He ‘dresses’ the comely Gordon in one clichéd gay outfit after another. At first the tanned fifteen-year-old (‘dyed a nectarine hue by the sun’) is in a ‘leopard-spotted loincloth.’ Then he is ‘wreathed about the loins with ivy.’ A second later he is fellating “a pipe of spring water” and wiping his hands ‘on his black bathing trunks.’ ”
September 14, 2015 | by Robert Anthony Siegel
Billy Childish’s sincere, deeply unselfconscious paintings.
Punk rock icon, poet, novelist, luftmensch, wearer of extraordinary hats and Edwardian mustaches—Billy Childish is a multiplicity of things, a British renaissance man. But first and foremost he is a marvelous painter, as can be seen at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery through October 31.
If you’re coming from his unabashedly confessional writing or his music, the restraint in his work might surprise you. Childish’s paintings generally revolve around the figure isolated in landscape: oystermen on heavy flat riverboats; a woman and children riding a sleigh in the nineteenth-century Yukon; the Swiss writer Robert Walser dead in the snow outside the psychiatric hospital where he was a patient. Most affecting, perhaps, is a series of recent paintings of the artist walking with his young daughter through fields or trees, or standing in a lush garden. Typically positioned in the center of the canvas, father and daughter look straight out at the viewer and yet retain a deep emotional inwardness. We take them in, but the mystery of their individuality remains intact. Read More »
June 24, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Like Richard Sharpe Shaver, a midcentury sci-fi writer who believed that an ancient civilization had embossed its complex history into “rock books,” Ken Grimes is convinced that humankind has defined communication too narrowly. A self-styled “visionary artist,” Grimes paints chiefly in acrylic on Masonite boards, and his subject is extraterrestrials: their existence, the deceptions surrounding that existence, and the cosmic synchronicities that reveal their presences. He looks for hidden messages from aliens in astronomy texts. “These are professional writers who have editors and proofreaders,” he told Wired, noting that the mistakes of such writers still tend to follow patterns. “They’re experiencing alien spirituality. It’s right in their face and they can’t even see it.” Grimes is schizophrenic. Read More »
June 28, 2012 | by Rachael Maddux
Howard Finster was fixing a bicycle in his Summerville, Georgia, workshop one day when a smudge of paint on his index finger took the shape of a face, a face that spoke to him and told him, “Paint sacred art.” Finster, then in his sixties, had been many things in his life: a teenage tent-revival preacher, a pastor, a mill worker. He had never been an artist, but he had also never been a man to shirk the word of God.
That was in 1976. The Lord told him to make five thousand works, a quota he reached just before Christmas 1985. By the time he died in 2001, his catalogue had swelled to more than forty-six thousand pieces. He devised an intricate numbering system and timestamped many of his works upon completion; he often painted through the night, sleeping only intermittently. Sometimes he signed his paintings BY HOWARD FINSTER, OF GOD. MAN OF VISIONS.