Outsider Art


Outsider Art was originally thought of as art generated by the mentally ill, with the notion that the state of mental illness would generate a pure art form not tainted by “cultural” creation.  This idea coincided with the development in the 40’s of non-representational art and the interest, or craving for connection with unobstructed imagination. 

The originator of the study of Outsider Art was a man named, Jean Dubuffet.  His search was focused on, “art forms emanating from obscure personalities, maniacs; arising from spontaneous impulses, animated by fantasy, even delirium; and strangers to the beaten path of catalogued art.”  He named this art, Art Brut.

In this course, we will discuss the origins and development of Outsider Art which is no longer exclusively identified with the mentally ill.  These artists are often isolated in rural communities, impoverished, caught up in religious fervor, or driven by inner visions.  

Their stories are as varied as the art they create, but their drive is to create a physical representation of their inner world.  Come along with us to explore this creative, disturbing and magnificent world.

Weekly Topics

  1. Intro. to outsider art & Adolf Wofli (Swiss, 1864 - 1930).

  2. Martin Ramirez (American, 1895 - 1963) & Bill Traylor (American, 1853 - 1949).

  3. Maud Lewis (Canadian, 1903 - 1973) & Gee’s Bend artists.

  4. Henry Darger (American, 1892 - 1973)  & Minnie Evans (African American, (1892 - 1987).

  5. Sister Gertrude (African American, 1900 - 1980) & Nellie Mae Rowe (African American, (1900 - 1982)

  6. Joseph Yoakum (African American, 1889 - 1972) & Madge Gill (Canadian, 1882 - 1961)

  7. George Ohr (American, 1857-1918) & wrap up.


Core text:  Groundwaters-A Century of Art by Self-taught and Outsider Artists ,  by Charles Russel

available through amazon book sellers at, Amazon.com: Buying Choices: Groundwaters: A Century of Art by Self-Taught And Outsider Artists