22 April, 2008

Outsider Art

While reading back through archived posts from one of my favourite blogs, I came across an entry about Henry Darger.

Darger was what is known as an 'outsider artist'. He produced art outside the mainstream, for his own sake, lived and worked in poverty and died in obscurity.
I find 'outsider art' - or at least the stuff that is good - by turns, compelling and inspiring and depressing.

Unlike most art, it's done without hope of social reward. Many outsider artists suffer from mental illness and do not view what they do as art, so its function is very different from conventional art.

I find it inspiring because of its humanity. It shows the beauty, creativity and imagination that drive the human psyche, even the broken one, the adaptive mechanism that makes us what we are. By contrast, most art is an intellectual husk.

I find it depressing, because the term 'outsider art' betrays a fearful social attitude, not just to art, but to mental illness, normative behaviour and creative wealth.