What’s an ‘Outsider Artist?’


What’s an ‘Outsider Artist?’

by CPH
CPH is the news
editor of OtherLinks.com

When it comes to traditional art, most people believe that it requires access to capital investment to get featured on regular exhibitions. It is generally expected of artists to have attended prestigious art schools and have strong educational and economic backgrounds.

Since the ‘60s, when it gained prominence as an allied form of expression for the peace movement and then in the 80s expressing hip-hop culture, street art has come a long way.

For the artist who doesn’t have such ‘desirable’ origins, their work is thrown under more scrutiny and skepticism. This person, known as an ‘outsider artist’ is seen as reckless, rebellious and self-taught who is above the rules of the trade. The only recourse for the outsider artist is to thrive on public attention and notoriety.

To pay homage to great works of art from outsider artists, OtherLinks has assembled a list of the most influential figures in this space.

Image from: Faena

Miroslav Tichy

This Czech born artist is famously known for using his makeshift camera to snap pictures of unsuspecting women. As sinister as this might sound, there was no ill intent behind the project. The photographs would tell a compelling narrative focused heavily on his homeland that was now thrown in chaos due to political instability. Miroslav and his work would have continued to remain in obscurity had it not been for his friend Roman Buxbaum whose untiring efforts riled up public interest and the eventual fame that comes along with it.

Image from: Artspace

Henry Darger

Henry worked as a hospital custodian but his passions lied elsewhere. He would create beautiful pieces of art in secrecy and over the years drew a collection of hundreds of watercolor paintings. Henry’s work is famously known for depicting young girls against the backdrop of ongoing warfare. His paintings mostly tell a frightening tale that is usually left in the wake of unchecked aggression on the defenseless.

Image from: TextileArtist.org

Judith Scott

Judith was born with Down’s syndrome and was told by doctors that her life span would be very limited. She spent over 35 years in a state institution and it wasn’t until her sister became her legal guardian that Judith discovered her immense talent for art. A fiber art class in Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland helped Judith maneuver around her disabilities. The result? Work that is appreciated to this day by the creative art community.

Marty T. Smith

Born in a poor family with 12 other children, Marty suffered from a hearing impediment that went largely untreated because of her poor circumstances. As a result she would find solace in paintings, which she took up after her retirement. Marty would spend countless hours turning her own house into what she describes as a ‘public form of spiritual autobiography’.Avid art collectors seemed to love her work, which seemed to have a unique art direction, often featuring themes focused on African origins. Marty’s work is often compared with Jean Michel Basquiat, known primarily for his graffiti work.