Reflections on Outsider Art Fair 2022: Four Eccentric Artists That I Can’t Stop Thinking About
Mar 29, 2022
Finally! After a month's delay, the Outsider Art Fair (OAF) 2022 opened on March 3, 2022 to eager collectors and art voyeurs, excited to discover something new. This year, OAF was back in person at the Metropolitan Pavilion; and walking in, all the memories of previously attended OAFs came rushing back. It felt just like before, the air was filled with excited chatter, admiring eager eyes looking for that special artwork, available for purchase to add to their collection, the sense of happy satisfaction.
Because OAF has a wide range of visitors that do not consider themselves art connoisseurs. They don't care about if their circle of friends love the piece, they only care if they like the piece. Of course, art attracts elites and wealthy collectors, yet unlike others, OAF makes their environment approachable, intimate, and most importantly fun.
Maybe it's because the artworks are made often out of an emotional necessity, raw, and often never intended to be shared or seen. Works created by people during their free time, whenever they could, with whatever materials they can afford or find. On the 30th anniversary of the OAF, it still provides new wonders, fresh outlooks, and new dealers are completely passionate about the artists they have discovered and are presenting.
Below are four of those artists. Artists that make me excited to go out to an art fair again, that encourages even people who never imagined themselves purchasing art, to begin to not just acquire a work, but begin to collect. Or even to go home and create art themselves! What more can you ask from an artist? But to be inspired constantly with every new glance at one of their works? By giving us a sneak peek into the worlds they create, the artists are able to teleport each of us into their unique perspective of the world with their whimsy, charm, and of course with their works.
So, go down a rabbit hole of discovery on any of these artists and come out the other side having learned something new, and perhaps, even though the fair may be over, inspire you to add one of their works into your collection.
Margaret Mousseau presented by Stellarhighway, Brooklyn, NY
OAF newcomer Stellarhighway (Brooklyn, NY) entered the fair with a colorful display of works, and I was mesmerized by the bright drawings by Margaret Mousseau (b.1955). Mousseau is a mother of three, but for many years, when asked she would reply ‘a mother of two’. In 1971 as a young woman she became pregnant and secretly went to Florida and gave up her first child for adoption. While she went on to have a family, that decision, unknown to us and possibly even herself, continues to haunt and inspire her to this day. Later in her life, Mousseau tried to find the child while enduring the anxiety of constant search. Drawn in colored pencils, Crossing to Safety (2019), shows the expression of the trauma that is transferred as chaotic and violent images, processing her never-ending grief. It is often painful to heal from past events when one may have had no choice or was in a vulnerable position. Mousseau's work could give hope for those in similar situations whether they are looking, or waiting to be found.
Mary P. Corbett presented by Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York, NY
Hirschl & Adler Modern (New York, NY) presented a selection of established Outsider artists, including Mary P. Corbett. Double-sided drawing depicting everyday occurrences with imagined dialogue by Mary P. Corbett (1930-2019), drawn when she was sixteen, truly stood out to me; it was made while living in the USA during the height of WWII. Instead of highlighting the fear, Corbett focused on depicting her immediate reality, common high school scenes such as getting ready for a school dance. One thing you will notice is that all the females she drew are wearing the styles of the day and drawn in pin-pesque style, each with animated expressions. The men however are where you can see her childish human, while having human bodies, they have the faces of dogs and occasionally cats. I can’t help but think of the youth of today, currently living in extraordinary historic times, continuing to create and live in the moment even while major world events occur around them.
Seymour Rosen presented by SPACES Archives, Kohler, WI
It is amazing to look at a moment of time, the history of someone’s life, their passions, their obsessions, and the memories and objects they leave behind. The ability to look into the details, small and large into someone or someplace, that eventually leads to a much fuller and richer understanding of that subject. The SPACES Archives did just that with a special presentation at this year’s OAF, with items and original photos taken and from the archive of their eccentric founder Seymour Rosen (1935-2006). According to his biography, “Rosen conceived of SPACES as a national (and, later, an international) organization that would be concerned with the identification and preservation of large-scale art environments”. The SPACES Archives presented a fascinating peek into the colorful life of Rosen, but it’s their website where I continued my search into this fascinating character that I really became impressed with. Even though the fair has closed, I can get lost in wild spaces documented and archived and continue to discover long after the fair has closed.
Jesse James Nagel presented by Jennifer Lauren Gallery, Manchester, U.K.
I am not sure what drew me to Jesse James Nagel’s (b.1993) works at the booth of Jennifer Lauren Gallery (Manchester, U.K.). Whatever it was, it made me swing back around to have a closer look. The drawings were a collage of faces, where strange creatures are doing odd things such as playing a keyboard while a floating head of Hitler is about to sneeze by having a red feather tickle his nose. Nagel’s work reminds me of a modern-day Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516), the Netherland artist famously known for depicting the most fantastically interpretations of religious concepts and stories. Every time I take another look at one of Nagel’s works, just like Bosch, I am surprised by another figure or interaction I discover. But unlike Bosch, I am not sure what narratives he is interpreting exactly and what story he sees and hopes to depict once a piece is completed. Nagel’s drawings mostly depict an imagined world of his creation filled with lanky and odd shaped creatures, with hints of pop culture and history. One that I can’t help but imagine that I am in.