“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States. The words include the famous line “the land of the of the free”. To be American is to be free to be yourself regardless of your race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or background. In this sense, I am one.
Rights in America
However, national and state governments have often denied rights to Natives, including those protected by the First Amendment. Many have been forced off reservations to be ruled by tribes, etc. Outsider Art is defined as “art produced by self-taught artists who are not part of the artistic establishment.”
The field of American folk art was first defined at the turn of the twentieth century by collectors, professional artists, critics, dealers, and curators whose search for an authentic American art seemed to be finally answered in works that presented a nuanced picture of national identity, faith, progress, ingenuity, community, and individuality. Under the umbrella of “folk art” the field expanded to also include artists working in the present.
For the last twenty years, the term self-taught has more regularly come to address these artists, whose inspiration emerges from unsuspected paths and unconventional places, giving voice to individuals who may be situated outside the social mainstream. Those individuals have been active participants in the shaping of American visual culture, influencing generations of artists and establishing lively artistic traditions.
I find it curious that the “Outsider” Art world is full of predominantly Caucasian artists and that there is strong market for the sales of their artworks – which does seem to be an oxymoron. In an age where almost everyone has access to the internet, who really is an Outsider?
If you are selling artworks, then by definition, you have become a commercial business!!! I personally think real Outsiders are ethnic minorities that choose to live away from the cultured and civilised world. I suspect the truth is that the gallery dealers and art magazine editors are the ones who choose to be labelled as “Outsider” as it is a way to sell artwork.
There is another aspect to this art world that frustrates me. Frederick Weston was let in shortly before he died. Many others simply died before being recognised. This is of course perfect for the galleries. They can easily pick up the artworks for free or very cheaply.
Galleries can sometimes make money out a life often spent in abject poverty. This is not respectful. It inhibits those artists the right to live well. When people ask me why I choose to teach and not sell art, it is the fact that I can earn money without having to sell myself cheaply. In all honesty, I think Asia is a better market. It is genuinely free…
Having organised and directed five Raw Arts Festivals, I have met many well known artists and know how the non-mainstream art world works. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be much different from the Contemporary Art world!
I stopped trying to go down that route back in 2009. I discovered how nasty some people in the art world can be. I decided to take a break from the raw art world and do something else – so I set up an ESL company in Poland.
Sadly, I have had serval tragedies in my life including losing my entire art portfolio prior to 2009. This also encouraged me to disconnect from the art world.
Since July 2019, I have lived in Vietnam and have visited many ethnic communities – so, I feel as though I have found some genuine people and genuine non-mainstream art. I thus decided to start creating again.
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