Visions of the South: Self-taught, visionary, and outsider art

Goodwyn Gallery is pleased to present Visions of the South: Self-taught, visionary, and outsider art, an exhibition organized by Dr. Naomi Slipp in collaboration with Marcia Weber of Marcia Weber Art Objects. The exhibition is open from January 9 through February 27, 2019 and draws together important artworks from Weber’s gallery and private collections in order to illustrate the versatility and aesthetic spirit of Southern self-taught, visionary, and outsider art.

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The exhibition is intended as a complement to the 2019 Southern Studies Conference, hosted at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) February 1-2, 2019. As a part of the exhibition and conference programming, Marcia Weber will present a Keynote lecture on Friday, February 1, 2019 from 5:00-6:00 pm in Goodwyn Hall 109. This event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

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Marcia Weber has owned and operated “Marcia Weber Art Objects” since 1991, first in Montgomery and now in Wetumpka, AL. The gallery specializes in contemporary folk art by self-taught, visionary, and outsider artists. These categories denote artists who make work outside of the artistic establishment. Such artists are often untrained, have had little exposure to mainstream academic styles, tend to utilize non-traditional techniques and materials, and work outside the conventional institutional structures for artistic production and reception.

A majority of the artists represented by Weber are local to the Southeastern United States, including many who hail from Alabama. For over thirty years, Weber has worked tirelessly to promote the work of these over-looked artists. Her efforts have put food on their tables and paint on their brushes, while her gallery archive operates as a significant record of their art that would otherwise be lost to history.

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Increasingly, scholars have begun to recognize that the labels placed upon self-taught, visionary, and outsider art have served to reinforce a contrived divide between “high” and “low” art. Historically, this divide has been used to maintain academic standards and styles and enforce artistic exclusion. Indeed, such labels have created divisions within the art world that are more related to race, class, disability and mental illness, geography, and gender, than to artistic talent or skill. A disproportionate number of American self-taught, visionary, and outsider artists are poor, women, or people of color, and many hail from the South.

The language sometimes used by art professionals to describe works by these artist – including “primitive,” “childlike,” or “naïve,” has operated to delegitimize the artistic value of their creative labors because it implies that they are somehow lesser than academically trained artists. Whatever labels scholars might place on such artists, the works on view speak for themselves.

Indeed, in spite of circumstance or poverty the 17 artists included in Visions of the South make work with whatever materials they can access to express their own aesthetic truths. Their art is often inspired by Southern vernacular forms and traditions and African American cultural heritage, including yard art, gravesite decoration, quilting and collage, and “making do.” Consequently, the boundless diversity and startling creativity of Southern self taught, visionary, and outsider art is evident in this exhibition.

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Further Reading & Resources:

Sarah Boxer, “The Rise of Self-Taught Artists,” The Atlantic, September 2013.

Lynne Cooke, Outliers and American Vanguard Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

Cheryl Finley et al., My Soul Has Grown Deep: Black Art from the American South (The Metropolitan Museum, 2018).

Horace Williams, History Refused to Die: The Enduring Legacy of African American Art in Alabama (Tinwood, 2015).

The Souls Grown Deep Foundation, Atlanta, GA

The American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY

Folk & Self-Taught Art, High Museum, Atlanta, GA

Folk and Self-Taught Art, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.

visions of the south

This exhibition and corresponding lecture were generously supported by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts

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