A new book is a mesmerizing exploration of the vast array of art created in the last century by artists outside the mainstream
UO professor of English and folklore studies Daniel Wojcik’s Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and Trauma (University Press of Mississippi, 2016) is a mesmerizing exploration of the vast array of art created in the last century by artists outside the mainstream—loners, psychiatric patients, visionaries, mystics, and iconoclasts of all stripes. These creative souls—mostly from Europe and the US—poured their private torments, visions, and intricate inner worlds into drawing, painting, building, sculpting, and collecting. Examples Wojcik offers range from the precise to the chaotic, from the meticulously planned to spontaneous outpourings, including healing machines built with wire and wood, rag and mud sculptures, ceiling mandalas made from precisely arranged knickknacks, and sky-tickling towers constructed from steel, wire mesh, tiles, and sea shells.
Above: Ionel Talpazan, Future UFOs Diverse Diagrame: 22 Modele Advanced Exstra Terestriale Tecnologÿ for Planeta Earth, 2000. Oil crayon, marker, pencil, and ink on paper, 30 x 40 in. Photograph James Wojcik.
Rosemarie Koczÿ, I Weave You a Shroud/Je vous tisse un linceul/Ich webe Euch ein Leichentuch, 2000. Ink on paper, 14 x 10.75 in. De Stadshof Collection, Museum Dr. Guislain (from a series of 13 drawings), www.collectiedestadshof.nl.
Gregory Van Maanen, The Happy Survivor, 1982–89. Mixed media on wood, dimensions unknown. Courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York.
Willem van Genk, Collage ’78, 1978. Oil paint on assembled wood boards, 36.5 x 41.5 in. Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne. Photograph courtesy of Nico van der Endt.
Eugene Andolsek, Untitled, 1950–2003. India ink on graph paper, 16.5 x 22 in. Photograph James Wojcik.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the solitary, illiterate, Italian-born Sabata Rodia created a series of tiered spires and structures on a patch of land he purchased in South Central Los Angeles. Rodia constructed his towers from steel rods wrapped with wire mesh and decorated with mosaics of found objects. The solidly built structures survived the 1933 earthquake, condemnation by the city, and the 1965 Watts riots. The Watts Towers Arts Center, next door to Rodia’s sculptures, opened in 1970. His towers are now regarded as a symbol, Wojcik writes, “of defiance, struggle, hope, and creativity in the face of obstacles and oppression.”