July 1997
s m u g
by Leslie Harpold


Outside Looking In

My taste in art runs outside the mainstream and inside the main art world. Which is to say, I like some quirky offbeat things that are generally made by artists who are artists, and fit in with the model of the gallery machine. I like some folk art, the old circus tapestries from the 20s and 30s and some commercial art - old Belle Époque posters have some charm, I fall in the narrow slot between true esoterica and people who just want the art to match their couch. Like they say, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I'm a seeker. I took a lot of art history in college and studied art and I've made some art myself, for better or worse. I can prattle endlessly about religious art, but modern art, especially the post 80s art is a little more evasive to me as far as what's current in the art world. Photography is a little easier to decipher, for some reason, and that could just be germane to my particular mindset or my having already accepted the disappearance of the real. When it comes to keeping up with the kids today though, I sometimes need a little help.


I confess, I read Art Forum, and Art News and a lot of the other art rags out there like Eye and Art In America if there's a good story mentioned on the cover. However, when I discovered Raw Vision, the way I look at art began to change.

Raw Vision

Raw Vision is a magazine of Art Brut, Outsider Art and Folk Art. Mostly outsider art. What is outsider art? Mainly art made by people who never went to art school and are "self taught" - the art they create comes mainly from within, and they have no apparent influences or teachers to thank for their style. Most of them lack a lot of education and there tends to be a certain rough quality to their work, a primitivist edge if you will.

The magazine is put together by people who obviously care about this art and the people that make it. The printing is excellent and the vellum-like paper stock it's printed on are kind of a sensory treat, a smooth companion to the rough imagery. What I like most about the magazine, however, is the writing.


The writers are art critics from all over, the most recent issue has NY Times art critics and writers who've written for Time and other fancy mainstream pubs. Good writers, who feel passionate or interested, or at least are skilled in conveying a sense of passion or interest in what they are writing about. There is a certain passion to outsider art, if only that most of it wasn't created for gallery shows, but as an expression of the artist's passion to create.

At least before they got discovered.


Here's where the real beauty of the magazine lies for me. In reading about the outsider art, what makes it outsider and what about the work I may look at and say "mess" makes it something worthy of media attention. Just because something is worthy of media attention doesn't change my mind or the way I react to something on a gut level, but I can appreciate all kinds of things I don't like if I understand them better. With the exception of course, of Julian Schnabel's work. Even I have a limit for sophistry.

It is by reading about the outside that I understand the inside better now. By learning the boundaries of outsider and insider art through reading about the outside, what comprises the inside has become more clear for me. There is a lot of comparison between the two, and through that I have learned, in effect, two things at once. I love that.

Occasionally, there will be some work in there that I love, on one level or another and I will be seduced by the vulpine charm of these art rebels. Most recently captivating me is Harold Blank, Texas Art Car creator and commentator. It's the old redneck meets auteur formula that works so well for me.


So, if you're looking to try to freshen up the way you look at things, check out Raw Vision. It's pricey, but sometimes spending twelve bucks on an art magazine can be more of a destination than a movie and a big box of goobers. It's the same price, and if you read it in a comfortable chair at home, your ass won't fall asleep, and your mind will be more wide awake than after sitting through the latest Jim Carrey face twisting epic.



back to the junk drawer

and such
and such

·feature· ·net worth· ·bumping uglies· ·smoking jacket· ·ear candy· ·feed hollywood· ·target audience· ·three dollar bill· ·compulsion· ·posedown· ·the biswick files· ·mystery date· ·and such and such· ·blab· ·kissing booth·

·contents· ·freakshow· ·fan club· ·junk drawer·

copyright © 1996, 1997 fearless media