What is an Outsider Artist anyway?
….the artist is naive…a loner…never been in an art school or gallery…makes disturbing images…has a vision…
William “Bill” Traylor
Construction with Exciting Event, 1939-42
Bill Traylor was most likely born around 1853. He was a slave on a cotton plantation in Alabama. Traylor began drawing at the age of 82 and his “studio” was on the sidewalks of Montgomery, Alabama. Only after his death was he recognized as a great talent.
The rough-edged drawings have an uneven geometry that turns every human gesture into a mangled dance.
THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM (SAAM) mounted the first-ever major exhibition devoted to the work of an artist born a slave.
Jesus is my Airplane, 1970
Sister Gertrude Morgan
Sister Gertrude Morgan was a poet, a preacher, an artist, and a singer who loved Jesus. She called Jesus her husband, her doctor, and her airplane (yes, airplane), and claimed to have met with him in visions throughout her life.
Born on a farm in Alabama in 1900, Sister Gertrude left school after third grade so that she could help her family with the farm work.
Preaching the gospel tirelessly in the streets of New Orleans, Sister Gertrude founded an orphanage and ministered to the sick and the inmates of Orleans Parish Prison for years.
Sister Gertrude’s paintings were little figures of herself in a white bridal gown standing beside a pudgy little Jesus wearing a tuxedo. Other images pictured her and Jesus in an airplane flying around heaven.
She was adamant that her paintings were divinely inspired and indeed, perhaps they were.
Sister Gertrude died in 1980, at eighty years of age. Her paintings have been exhibited and celebrated in prestigious museums such as the American Folk Art Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“Jesus is My Airplane” sold to a private collector for $20,700.
Jenny and Her Sisters are Nearly Run Down be Train, 1970
Henry Darger Jenny and Her Sisters are Nearly Run Down by Train Henry Darger
Henry Darger’s story is heartbreaking, but he left the world a treasure trove of art.
Tragedy found Henry Darger early and often. When he was 4 years old, his mother died. Unable to care for him, Darger’s father placed him in an orphanage.
At 16, Darger ran away and for the next 64 years lived alone as a recluse in a rented room while working as a janitor in Chicago.
Darger died at 81.
His landlord, cleaning out Darger’s rooms, made a startling discovery: alone in his room, Darger had created hundreds of beautiful, large paintings illustrating an epic fairytale he had written over 60 years.
A brilliant artist, hidden from the world in the guise of a lonely janitor, Henry Darger has become internationally known and is represented in major museums throughout the world.