Friday, July 16, 2010

Outsider artists

OMG: I notice I have not posted anything for ten days. Besides writing the conclusion to the book on freedom of speech, I have been busy, mostly reading Joyce Appleby's long book (494 pages) on the history of capitalism, for which I also had to write a review. The review was finished this morning, and will now "sit" over the weekend to see whether I am ready to send it off.

Instead of Goethe and the 18th century, let me post a few pictures of works by artists that I have been looking at in the past couple of weeks. One is quite established, though in his lifetime he was not well recognized, at least not in art schools, according to my friend Barbara Cushing, with whom I went to see an exhibition of his works at the Whitney. I am talking about Charles Burchfield, a really weird but also wonderful painter. The painting below, for instance, is called An April Mood. Talk about April being the cruelest month ... I prefer the works (many watercolors) that seem to emit light and color. You can see others on the Whitney website.

I'm not sure whether the other two artists whose works are here will be pleased to see themselves called "outsider artists," though I am linking them with Burchfield because they seem to be pursuing a course that sets them off from other artists who are "hot" these days. Their works are ephemeral and off the beaten path, so to speak, which fits with the circumstance of my getting to know them. And those spiky trees in the Burchfield painting certainly suggest the work of Tom Loback.

I met Tom several years ago when I was out for a morning walk on the greenway along the Hudson River. For a long time he worked anonymously, and the first New York Times piece to take note of these river-side sculptures did not identify him. There was a second sculptor at that time, but his pieces, in contrast to Tom's driftwood sculptures, required string to keep the many parts together. Tom's are intricately fitted together and have become more complex over the years. He told me back then that he lives "downtown" (maybe the Village?) and that he takes the subway up to 125th and then walks down along the river picking up driftwood and building his sculptures. A couple of days after I took the photo at the top of this post (click on image to enlarge), I biked along the river and noticed several more sculptures, even more ambitious. I also like seeing them when I am kayaking on the river.

Bridget Polk I met for the first time the other day, though I had seen her balanced rocks earlier. Her photos of the rocks are way better than mine, but I include one of my shots here since it shows her at work. Having written on Goethe's encounters with geology, I am obviously fond of artists who work with rocks. As can be seen from her website, Bridget likes natural materials, though her giant balloons are really cool.

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