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Divine Visions of Outsider Artists

Divine Visions of Outsider Artists

January 9 – March 1, 2006Opening Reception: Wednesday, January 11, 5-7 p.m.

(Free and open to the public.)

The Gallery will be closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, January 16, 2006.

Curated by Mike Smith of the At Home Gallery, Divine Visions of Outsider Artists includes more than sixty paintings and sculptures by twenty-seven artists, most of whom are self-taught and from the Southeastern United States. With this exhibition, Guilford College Art Gallery augments the college-wide, yearlong conversation about Spirit and Spirituality during 2005-06.

A powerful influence in art for centuries, religion is especially prevalent in the field of “Outsider Art,” (defined here as art representing the personal, spiritual and often spontaneous expressions of artists, most of whom have received no formal training in art.)

Several of the artists included in this exhibition received “divine” visions, i.e. they were “spoken to,” or “called” to preach through their art.  Like the early Quakers, they are open “to an inward necessity, an inner force, power, passion.[1]”  Articulating their intuitive experiences and spiritual concerns with urgency (and occasionally whimsy), they pay little heed to the tenets of formal artistic training. Others, while not having experienced such visions, nonetheless are drawn to religious subjects as relief to lives punctuated by poverty, broken homes, illiteracy, illness, and/or addiction.  

 These works “open avenues for exploring themes and issues that are central to American religious life, such as pilgrimage, the nostalgia for lost origins, the desire to recreate sacred time and space, creativity as religious devotion, apocalypticism, spectacle, exile, and the relation between religious vision and social marginality.[2]” 

Guilford College Art Gallery is grateful to Mike Smith of At Home Gallery, and collectors Dan Chrisman, Tom and Mary Ellen B. ’72 Faircloth, Bill Jones, Eric & Suzanne Pace, Chris Roulhac, Select Southern Pottery, Dorsey & Linda Taylor; the families of James Harold Jennings and Arbon Lane; and each of the artists for sharing this work.


[1] Douglas Heath, The Peculiar Mission of a Quaker School, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 225, 1996, p. 21

[2] Timothy K. Beal, Roadside Religion, Beacon Press, 2005