Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars

Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars

Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars

Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars


Texas looms large: big skies, vast plains, large cities. The Lone Star State often inspires a heightened sense of place in its citizens that rivals or surpasses that of New Yorkers. This is frequently reflected in the art of Texas--paintings of bluebonnet fields, longhorn cattle, and scenes from the Texas frontier have long enjoyed popularity with collectors.

Outsider artists, on the other hand, live and create on the fringes of culture and society. Generally removed from the influence of place, they prefer instead to chart their own, intensely personal, interior landscapes. They usually have little awareness of or connection to the mainstream art world or its history, and they typically possess limited intention that their work will have an audience or find a place in the broader landscape of art.

Woven through the lives and work of outsider artists is a common thread of isolation. This isolation may be psychological, cultural, socioeconomic, geographical, racial, or institutionally imposed. Circumstances of life, chosen or not, have placed these artists apart. However, these artists, like their formally trained peers, find that they are compelled to make art; it is essential to their lives as a manifestation of their personal histories, societal and cultural forces, and an unfailing drive to express themselves.

In Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars, author Jay Wehnert takes readers on a visually stunning excursion through the lives and work of eleven outsider artists from Texas, a state particularly rich in outsider artists of national and international renown.


To the power of one

Isolation is a powerful human condition. Given our essential connection to each other as individuals, families, societies, and cultures, isolation has the capacity to shape a life and affect its most basic experiences and expression. To be apart, at a distant remove from the relationships that are the basis of human nature, can be deeply influential. Isolation is a compelling force in a wide range of human experiences because of this elemental quality. This broad scope is reflected, for instance, in how the experience of isolation and seclusion can be employed both as a primary means of subjugation, such as imprisonment, and also as an essential means of accessing and inspiring creativity and art. the lives and work of the artists explored here in Outsider Art in Texas serve as illustrations of the interplay of isolation, as one of life’s essential experiences, and the desire for these experiences to find extraordinary expression.

The dual forces of exclusion and seclusion at work in an individual’s life and creativity can be exerted on simultaneously broad and personal scales, often with potent consequences. the lives and art of some of the American masters of outsider art resonate deeply with the Texas artists that I will be presenting in Outsider Art in Texas.

Consider, for example, the lives of African American artists, some Texans, who will be featured later in this book. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, sweeping international forces resulted in economic systems that were based on slavery. By the hundreds of thousands, Africans were systematically uprooted from their families, communities, homeland, and culture. An individual was suddenly enslaved in a world of nearly comprehensive personal and collective isolation. Emancipation replaced slavery for subsequent generations with an equally segregating system of Jim Crow and institutional racism. Uprooted and isolated from their culture of origin and denied full integration, assimilation, and participation in the culture of their imposed home, African American artists created work that is often deeply informed with this multilayered alienation and isolation. the art and life of Bill Traylor (1854–1949) of Alabama is infused with these themes. Traylor was born into slavery and spent almost his . . .

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