“An Outsider Looks at the Outside of Art” by Richard F. Yates
I’m 44 years old, never went to art school, and ain’t rich. For some reason, though, I make “art.”*
*[“Art” is a strange thing. There are a multitude of definitions, and none of them seems to adequately explain the concept. People who DO art might or might not understand WHY they are doing what they are doing. Some THINK they know, and have elaborate explanations for what they are doing and what it all means. Maybe they’re right, OR maybe they’re fooling themselves and rationalizing their behavior (for fun, fame, or fortune.) Personally, I think art is magic. I don’t actually believe in magic, but I do it all the time…]
I am self-taught (“Obviously,” I hear you say), and I make stuff because I am compelled to. I write and draw and sing and dance and chant---every day---because I HAVE to. My brain is constantly swirling, and by making things, the swirling slows down. And I’ve always made things for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of drawing pictures. I have boxes of journals going back to 1979. I have thousands of drawings and painting and collages in boxes in my closets and in the garage. I’ve given stuff away, sold some pieces, posted thousands of poems and stories and drawings and jokes and lies and other junk on the internet. I’m mostly unknown, mostly unpaid, and entirely driven to CREATE by my love of the ACT of creation. I am pretty much the definition of an OUTSIDER artist.
But now, I’m seeing some weird things happen. I’m seeing documentaries on OUTSIDER artists, and I’m seeing web sites dedicated to the recognition of outsider artists. I’m seeing ART FAIRS and MUSEUMS that are built around displaying and SELLING the art of outsider artists, and I’m going, “What the fuck?” This type of thing is particularly disturbing to me when I see people, gallery owners or dealers, who are profiting off of the work of outsiders, who are fucking penniless or who DIED broke as shit, and I wonder: WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? How is this not just straight-up exploitation?
Untrained people, under-educated people, homeless people, crazy people (I mean this phrase without malice, as mental illness runs in my family, and even afflicts me---but LUCKILY in ways that can be managed through understanding and the support of my family, mostly my poor wife)---these are the types of artists who are usually considered OUTSIDERS, and it seems to me that they are obviously being exploited for their raw energy, for their iconoclastic perspectives, and for their individual methods (having not had the PROPER WAYS of thinking and creating crammed and banged into them in class after class after class…) We, the OUTSIDERS, aren’t BULLSHITTING in order to sound “academic” or “deep.” We are doing what we love (or feel we HAVE to do---compulsion is a strange thing).
WE ARE REAL.
But the ABSORPTION ENGINE is currently in full SUCK MODE. It happened to the hippies. It happened to the punks. It happened to grunge. It happened to the ravers, and it will happen, again and again, to ANY “movement” that starts to develop definable traits and attributes. The only movements that seem to escape the ABSORPTION ENGINE are the ones that DIE before they can be fully understood. Like DADA. It was too fucked up to last long anyway…
But you just watch. Things that LOOK like OUTSIDER ART are going to start having CULTURAL CACHET, and there will be “better” outsider artists who have a more “authentically” outsider “style.” Fuck that. Don’t get sucked in. If you make stuff, make it the way YOU want to make it. Don’t bend towards the market. Don’t let the possibility of a piece of the pie CHANGE you. It’s up to YOU to STAY REAL…
(This has been a public service announcement from THE ORDER OF THE PATRONS OF THE PRIMITIVE PANORAMA.)
---Richard F. Yates
(Commander in Cheap of The Primitive Entertainment Workshop)
#art #arttheory #humor #outsiderart #writing