“Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century”

Philadelphia Museum of Art

By any measure, outsider art is now an established category. It boasts curators, scholars, and collectors; books and magazines (Raw Art); exhibitions (e.g., 1992’s “Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art” at the LA County Museum of Art), expositions (the Outsider Art Fair in New York City and others in Atlanta and Baltimore); and even a museum, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. The separate-but-sort-of-equal distinction begs the question of what makes outsider art “outsider”? Level of skill or education doesn’t really seem at issue: not all “insider” artists are schooled, nor do outsider artists, because self-taught, necessarily lack skills. Carvers such as Leroy Person carve with originality; painters such as Purvis Young paint brilliantly. Many other outsiders, like their art-world counterparts, have developed their own media and formats, whether it’s chicken

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