Utne Independent Press Award Winner for Arts Coverage: Raw Vision

Raw Vision peers into a curious corner of the art world

| Utne Reader January / February 2007

Outsider artist is one those fuzzy but indispensable terms-like alternative press-that provokes endless debate about just what the heck it means, and about who ought to be lumped under the label. It generally refers to self-taught artists, but not always, and beyond that things get even stickier.

Consider a few of the artists who have been featured in recent issues of Raw Vision , which calls itself 'the world's leading journal of outsider art, art brut, and contemporary folk art':

  • A man from the United States' rural South who filled his yard with brightly colored cut-out figures and whirligigs bedecked with religious slogans.
  • A homeless Jamaican painter whose vibrant works include recurring figures of cowboys, fortune-tellers, and boxers, and who says he's the son of Abraham Lincoln.
  • A German woman who sabotaged a railway in a 1907 political protest, and who, after she was deemed insane and institutionalized for the act, fashioned a full-size male 'doctor' from burlap and stuffing, and regularly pummeled it. She also made small figures from bread dough and wrote a play.

Clearly, it's an expansive genre, and people in the field love to skirmish at the boundaries between outsider and other terms such as folk, contemporary, naive, raw, visionary, primitive, vernacular, and, when it's applicable, simply art by people with disabilities. Despite their disagreements, many of them agree on one thing: Raw Vision covers this ever-shifting territory nimbly and smartly.

'If you want to know this field, you've got to take Raw Vision,' says Eugene Metcalf, a professor at Miami University in Ohio who has written books and articles about outsider and folk art.

'There isn't any another publication that comes close in terms of timely information about the field,' says Tom di Maria, director of the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California, which provides studio space and instruction for physically, mentally, and developmentally disabled artists. 'I also like its international focus.'

'It does a service in promoting these artists,' says Sherry Pardee, director of the Pardee Collection folk/outsider gallery in Iowa City, Iowa. 'It exposes things to the world that people aren't usually going to see.'