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What is an Outsider & Who Decides?

By Dr. Richard J. Bay — Tulsa, Oklahoma

First, what a wonderful time my wife and I had visiting the Grassroots Art Center this summer. Seeing Rosslyn, the collection and installations, talking, buying lots of very cool stuff, it was perfect. For my wife this was her first visit. To say she left amazed is an understatement. As we headed for Denver her first comment was … do people realize how fabulous that place is?

I would say if you haven’t visited, it is well worth the time to renew your acquaintance with the people, the art, and the rich and colorful stories that await you. If you can’t visit, PLEASE KEEP YOUR DONATIONS COMING. This is an important and precious gift that must not perish! The Grassroots Art Center is a testament to the creativity and genius that would be otherwise overlooked or lost to a world that moves all too quickly.

Now on to my question above. What is an Outsider & Who Decides?

In today’s almost all-inclusive social network it is difficult to think there are still those personalities that create for themselves. Those who for some reason (Spiritual, Political, Personal, or They Just Make Stuff!) create, embellish, narrate stories about life, beauty, or just their opinions and ideas in some form for us to see. Is the Outsider today’s front Yard embellisher? Is the Outsider the person at a local Flea Market with their pop can airplanes or flowers, crocheted dolls and characters, sewn cloth pictures or designs, or those who build what some would call an imaginary creature or ‘thing’ that they present with a purpose and a price?

Example: today’s items for sale on a Tulsa Webpage… The ad reads, “ HANDMADE HANGING PLANTERS” “I made each hanging planter. All with glass beads. Some beads are rare. One of a kind. Each comes with a live succulent or plant. Selling each for $100 or $250 for all. Thanks Marcia.”

When I saw these this morning (This wasn’t what I originally was going to write about! ) I said to myself two things. First, OH MY GOD! Second, Is she kidding? $100 each? Then I thought these are beautiful. She also took intricate pictures. She believes in what she has created and in some ways follows the first rule I learned as an artist. A friend told me about pricing my Art. That was, if you love it then set a price so when it sells you feel rewarded. She really loves these! They are, I believe her heart and soul. They are her personal act of creating and reward her in immeasurable ways. Look at the beads, the pots, the arrangement of plants. Tell you what, if I could afford them, I would honor her by buying them.

Are they ART? (My second question!) Hell yes!

They are the essence of every piece I saw this summer in Lucas. They radiate the richness of a personal experience and the pride of a personal accomplishment. So, in conclusion to the questions I have posed, there is an old adage that I feel comes into play.


In this case if we go by all the learned definitions of Outsider Art then, OUTSIDER ART IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, TOO!

Not in anyway belittling the collection in Lucas or its place in the spectrum of the Outsider ARTWORLD but, we must consider what each artist creates, the world that they exist in, the current stream of events and stimulus around them, and most importantly their own need to make their personal artistic statement.

The original three questions I posed:

What is an Outsider & Who Decides? And, What is Art?

My Answers. Marcia, in my definition is a very real and vital Outsider. Who Decided? I did, because I saw and felt her joy of her creations and they are even by her own description, unique and precious.

Finally, is it Art? Give me a HELL YEAH!

Conclusion, you are the best interpreter of today’s Art World and what brings you pleasure, joy, fulfillment when you see it, hear it, taste it, you know — sense it! The best creations are those made by individuals who have only the need to create what is missing in the world around them!

Please read that last sentence several times! And, PLEASE VISIT and SUPPORT … THE GRASSROOTS ART CENTER!

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