It’s about the process


I am on another writing retreat in the mountains (it’s snowing here!) and I have been silent, not because I am goofing off, but because I have been completely absorbed by the task before me. In other words, I am blissed out.

The sad truth is that I have no idea what I think about something until I write it. I know some well-known writers have expressed this same feeling, but I have lost track of those quotations. Anyway, that’s my reality.

In the process of exploring the topic of what “self-taught” means, I wrote myself to the edge of a cliff. This is not to say that I felt like jumping off a cliff, but that I had nowhere to go from there.  I became so disenchanted with the multitude of definitions of outsider art, and their *reasons (*excuses) for defining it so, that I thought I might have to throw this entire  project in the garbage. Egad. What now?

No matter how we define outsider art, it has grown from Dubuffet’s plea to look at art in a new way, to yet another power-dominated field of art. How can I write about this without it turning into a hysterical rant? This is, after all, an academic exercise, not an opinion piece for a rag newspaper…

But, when all is said and done, and in spite of the headaches it causes me, I absolutely love the art that I encounter in my research. It never fails to punch me in the gut. And I always say to myself, “so this is another way to look at the world…” It leaves me with a sense of awe.  And really, what more could you ask of art?

I have always believed that outsider artists – in the process of creation – are in the midst of a soliloquy, as opposed to a dialogue with others. That soliloquy takes them to a deeper place and a deeper truth. Filmmaker, Werner Herzog, calls this the ecstatic truth. As he says, one can reach a deeper stratum of truth in the arts – a poetic, ecstatic truth, which is mysterious and can only be grasped with effort. One attains it through vision, craft and style. By engaging in the art-making process, sometimes obsessively, I think these artists find their own deep truths. It’s not about the product. It’s about the process.

So, I am signing off tonight with a promise to get down to details in a future blog.