“Outsider” Art class

Chalking up the first lecture for my new class on so-called Outsider Art as more of a learning experience for me than for my students. I mean, even though by now I’ve given tons of lectures (believe it or not), every single time at bat’s like relearning the whole process all over again. Anyhow, I “think” I’ve figured out lecture #2, which’ll (I hope) communicate this idea:

We don’t like it when things don’t have names. A name’s a handle, literally. And so we try to name the nameless according to whatever rules we have for this endeavor. And because naming gives us the idea we’ve tamed the wilderness, if we’re sloppy or wrong in how we go about bestowing labels, we don’t worry about it too much until the named speak up. And even then we might only slowly, fitfully make adjustments, because renaming requires a lot of hard, careful thought and also recognizing that names are always imperfect. But what if some of the named routinely shrug off the labels we keep trying to drape over their shoulders? What if they constantly slip this way and that regardless of our need to box them into what we think are final, neat, perfect categories? We end up chasing the unnamed across the landscape, bellowing at them to wait up, wait up, while they run and dart and jump over all our traps and obstacles. While they continue being what they are, true to their own various purposes and desires, however idiosyncratic these may seem to us from a distance. That’s kind of what we’re dealing with here when we try to describe the field of study known (for better or, arguably, worse) as Outsider Art.

In other words, who’s the outsider, really? The maker or the viewer? (Spoiler: it’s the viewer.)

We’ll see how it goes. Like, for one thing, it’s gotta fill 2 hours (believe it or not). And it has to avoid putting folks completely to sleep…

Meanwhile, there are books to make, drawings to draw, things to write…someday.

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