Posts Tagged ‘outsider art’

Artist of the moment……..Adolf Wolfli



Adolf Wolfli was a Swiss painter associated with the Art Brut or outsider movement. Adolf Wolfli was born in Bern, Switzerland in the year 1864.

The artist had an extremely difficult childhood. He was abused physically and sexually and was an orphan by the age of ten. He spent a majority of his adult life in a mental hospital. The artist would sometimes hallucinate.

In this clip a montage of works by Adolf Wolfli:

Adolf Wolfli passed away in 1930.

A collection of his artwork can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts located in Bern Switzerland.

Price range information: Sorry none available.

What I enjoyed most about this artist was his sense of creativity and desire to create art just for himself, not for a gallery or client. The artist was given pencils and paper once a week, but he loved to create so much he would be out of supplies in few days. He would then trade for scraps of pencils and papers with visitors.


Artist of the moment…..Albert Reverend Wagner


Time for some outsider art/ naïve art. Even if you think the drawings or style is something your child might do, often times the stories behind the artists of outsider art are very interesting. We will take a look at Albert Reverend Wagner and after that Clementine Hunter, the Grandma Moses of the South.

Albert Reverend Wagner was born in Arkansas in the year 1924. The artist family worked in the cotton fields. At a young age he became burdened with being the man of the house.

After deciding to move to Cleveland Wagner started his own company that moved furniture.

The artist was married to one wife for 2o years, but in that time loved to sex with as many women as possible. This led to 2o kids and families. When his wife found out about his other families, she left him.

Late in life he supposedly had an epiphany and gave up his bachelor ways and began painting. He even became an ordained minister and thus picked up the nickname Reverend Wagner.

Wagner worked as a painter and sculptor using found objects.

Price range information: Sorry none available.

A film was made about Albert Reverend Wagner and his “outsider” art in 2008. Here is a clip from the project:

Albert Reverend Wagner passed away in 2006 at the age of 82 years old.


Artist of the moment….Madge Gill

Madge Gill was a British artist born in East Ham, Essex to a young mother out of wedlock. Gill is known for her folk/ naive art drawing style. She went to live  in an orphanage at nine years of age. Afterward she was moved to a farm in Canada.

Quite a character Madge Gill married a cousin. The couple had four children but a daughter was a stillborn and child died due to the Spanish influenza epidemic.

The death of her daughter was bad news but then Gill nearly died from an illness that left her blind in one eye.

Supposedly the artist did her best work when she was in a trance like state of being.

She sometimes signed work with the tag ” Myrninterest.” The was the name she gave to the spirit  who inhabited her body when she produced her artwork.

Gill chose not to sell most of her artwork for money, she was afraid it might anger the spirits that helped her produce her wonderful art.

Price range information: Sorry none available. Most of her work is in private collections or owned by the London borough of Newham.

After her daughter was dead the artist came to experience a deepening in spirit. She tried to bring this forth in her artwork.

Here we visit our dear friend James Kalm for a trip showcasing works by the artist. I encourage you to watch the entire clip, but Madge Gill works starts showing at the 7:54 mark into the clip.


Artist of the moment……….James Castle…..

James Castle was born in Garden Valley, Idaho in the year 1899. Castle is considered by historians to be an “outsider” artist. He didn’t follow the national trends, he created art simply for the purpose of doing so. Castle loved to communicate via art and was deaf and mute. He completed over 20,000 works of art in his lifetime. Many works are on found cardboard, wood, or paper and many times the artist used soot and saliva as his medium of choice rather than a pen or pencil. Many times the found paper is a cut up cigarette box. In addition to painting and drawing Castle produced books and assemblage.

Many of Castle’s works show landscapes or interior scenes.

Price range information: James Castle worked with many found materials and also produced watercolors and works in chalk. Works range from $1,000 to $20,000.

Castle was born deaf-mute and refused to learn how to read or write. Instead he just drew and drew and drew and this was his main form of communication.

Castle is similar to such artists as Martin Ramirez or Yayoi Kusama. Two artists that both spent time in mental health facilities and both used art as a main form of communication and it also seems self therapy. Ramirez came from Mexico to work in the fields and spent much of his life in mental institutions in California where he created works such as the one below out of found paper and for color, used small pieces of melted crayon.


For his education the artist attended the Idaho State School for Deaf and Blind located in Gooding, Idaho.

In this clip we see and here from the friends and family of James Castle.

Another montage of works by James Castle. He produced over 20,000 works over his lifetime.

James Castle passed away in 1977 at the age of 78 years old in Boise, Idaho.

Its always comforting to see someone who just enjoys the process of creating over and over. The fact that he didn’t have store bought materials didn’t impede his desire to draw and paint in the least as Castle completed more than 20,000 works of art over his lifetime.


Artist of the moment…..Martin Ramirez


Martin Ramirez was a self taught artist born in the year 1895 in Mexico. Ramirez was a fantastic artist that ended up spending a great deal of his life in the mental institutions of California. Having not gone to art school and having a  unique style I would compare to Keith Haring, Ramirez style was thought of as “outsider art” I prefer to think of it as street art before its time.

Ramirez worked with paper as his main surface, all of the pictures in the gallery were done on paper. He produced artwork for nearly thirty years of his life spent in various mental institutions.

Price range information: Most works are done in pencil or mixed media on paper and range from $30,000 to $140,000.

Ramirez was a first a normal family man with a wife and two kids that operated a ranch in Mexico. In 1925 he chose to come to the United States to find work and send money back home to Mexico. In 1931 he was hospitalized for the first time. He was placed at a hospital in Stockton, California first and moved in 1948 to a hospital in Auburn, California. It was in Auburn where he made most of his now famous and highly coveted collages and drawings.

His style is a mixture of Mexican and American folk art.

Ramirez passed away in 1963 at the age of 67 years old.

A short clip about the background of Ramirez. Interesting as our hostess makes some fantastic points about so called “outsider art.”  The clip is from a show featuring the artist at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It also features some interesting facts about his technique such as using his saliva and paste from the kitchen to glue his works together.

Another artist that spent a great deal of time in mental hospitals would be Yayoi Kusama. Kusama was born in 1928 in Japan and is a master of many different artistic mediums including writing, sculpting, and painting. Kusama moved to New York city during the peak of abstract expressionism. She failed at her goal of becoming a great artist in the states. She moved back to Japan, concentrated on writing short stories, and checked herself into a hospital for the mentally ill. She has lived in the hospital since 1973. She has an easily recognizable style with her bold bright colors and dots. I have done a long post on her before as she is my favorite Japanese artist and what a unique story to boot. She still produces works to this day. Here is a signature work by Kusama and she has an artwork sell for more than 5 million u.s. dollars which is a record for a  living female artist.



And this short video about the artist. She is very successful as a commercial artist and business woman with her easily recognizable style.


Don’t forget that Van Gogh was highly emotional and spent time in mental hospitals as well. Everyone in the world has something to offer the art world. These artists all looked through the world with their own very unique eyes.

Another artist I have written about has been in the news lately for his work of art using light on the San Francisco Bridge. His name is Leo Villareal.