“Outsider” Art

I like the two shows at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art this fall.  Today we went to hear Collections Curator Jonathan Bucci talk about the Russell Childers show of wood carvings that Bucci curated and that is on view at the Museum until the end of October.  If you haven’t seen the Childers yet show I highly recommend it…the work is beautiful and poignant, the narrative almost filmic.  Childers was sent to the “Fairview Home for the Feeble Minded” by court order in 1925 when he was 10…removed from his mother who did not wish him to go.  Childers was deaf and could not speak, possibly was what we now call autistic, but was decidedly not feeble minded.  His mother died 4 years later, and with no advocate, Childers spent the next 38 years institutionalized.  The happy part of his story is that people recognized his talent and intellect, he was released at age 48, hearing aids worked for him and at age 50 he learned to speak.  He was able to spend the last 3 decades of his life making art among sympathetic people.  He had gallery representation (Jamison Thomas Gallery) his work toured the region and was collected.  It ended well.  I wrote about that show in early August and hope you’ll go see the show this next month.



The other show, in the big galleries and up until January is:


It has elements I LOVE…interesting narratives (here is “Woman With Bird and Flashlight”  Whaaat????)hfma-4-woman-with-bird-and-fklashlight

“Red Girl”


“Big Cat”


all by Alma Dexhimer.   And then the writing.  I’m partial to words appearing in work and have my own “font” (thanks Sloy) which I use in quilts and paintings and drawing books….here are three details from Jesse Howard paintings…



(now I’m wondering what DID become of John the Baptist’s head…?)


Zebedee Armstrong’s “Three Calendars”


…a couple from Howard Finster…



Benjamin Perkins’ terrific map…


(I mislaid the note with the artist’s name on this one…)


W.J.Blackmon’s “God’s House”…(think Giotto here…)


and very sadly only one quilt…quilts being perhaps one of the most vibrant of “folk art” forms…Sarah Mary Taylor”s quilt…sarah-mary-taylor

Andrew Johnson immigrated from Copenhagen, Denmark in 1865 and wound up in Montana where this was painted with barn paint on wallboard…”Tornado”


These artists are people from what we now call “the margins”.  People from institutions, people of color who lack a formal art education, people who work a day job and then make art on top of that. Looking at all this work, at other examples in the Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. , I long for a re-imagining of descriptors for art made by Americans, for an art world that is more inclusive of good work, no matter where it came from regionally and no matter what the race, gender or educational level of the maker.

In any case, go take a look and think about it, and while you are there…in these last few days of Barack Obama’s presidency, take note of this quote on the wall…








  1. another excellent eyeful, bonnie. we visited the PNAA exhibit and the Dayna Collins “Insight and Imagination” exhibit yesterday. We were a half hour too early (had walked) for the museum to open, and so have yet to see “Strange and Wonderful”, but certainly will. your wondering about what did happen to John the Baptist’s head cracked us up. That “tornado” looked ominous and the painting glorious.

  2. Have no idea what happened to John’s head in the end, but it seems it was served on a platter…..guess the world was crazy even back then.

  3. What a wonderful post, Bonnie. You are not alone in yearning for a gentler, more inclusive art world. I was pleased to find a bit of that attitude in New Mexico. Having spent a year here (plus visits over the years) I’m always delighted at the sheer amount of art everywhere – tiny galleries in the smallest towns, local art in all manner of stores. And even more important is the fact that the local culture seems to truly support art and artists regardless of how the art might be viewed in most places. One gets the feeling that ALL art is welcome and worthy of viewing, whatever the skill level, medium, or subject. Glorious.

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