When Marcia Weber was first exposed to contemporary folk art and outsider art, she didn't realize how integral it would become to her everyday life. "I come from a fine-art background," Weber says, "and I was mesmerized by the fact that people who didn't know how to spell Œart' actually picked up whatever they could find and created some art."
That was more than twenty years ago. Today Weber owns a gallery in Alabama dedicated solely to locating, selling and promoting outsider and contemporary folk art. And for the first time in fifteen years, pieces from Weber's collection will be available for viewing outside of Alabama and New York. Contemporary and Outsider Folk Art comes to Denver's Indigena Gallery with an opening reception on Thursday, November 3.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, folk art and outsider art are both art forms created by men and women who are entirely self-taught; they have no formal training but are compelled to create art for their own pleasure or for healing purposes. Weber describes it as "unpretentious."
"It's not pre-conceived," she says. "Those artists did not create any of those pieces thinking they'd ever be on a gallery wall somewhere in Denver."
Take Woodie Long, for example. Long is one of twelve children, the son of a migrant farmer turned sharecropper. He was a house painter until his doctor told him in 1987 that the profession was too risky for his health. So he started painting vibrant, honest images on paper and wood that eventually wound up on the pages of Smithsonianmagazine, on the walls of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and in countless New York art exhibits. Long still lives in the same house in Alabama, and he and his wife grow most of their own food. Then there's Jimmie Lee Sudduth, who's been using mud, berries, grasses, animal fat and axle grease, as well as paint, to create images for 92 of his 95 years. (He also plays a mean harmonica.) And Michael Banks is the "quintessential outsider artist," according to Weber. Banks grew up in the Alabama projects with his single mother, and he creates his artwork -- paintings and wood sculptures -- using found objects.
But don't let the absence of black turtlenecks and snooty post-modernist talk scare you. "These individuals set out not to create art, but instead to fulfill a burning desire to express something that was very important to each of them," says Weber.
And that's art at its finest.