For decades, much discussion concerning artists who work(ed) independently from the academic mainframe was focused on nomenclature—what to call “it” and “them.” More recent scholarship has explored how the boundaries between official and unofficial culture are established, by whom, how they’re defined, and how they function. These cultural terms of engagement vary and shift as the relevance of cultural lines of demarcation are questioned and debated in contemporary discourse. In this session, three scholars approached these questions from diverse perspectives.
Charles Russell is professor emeritus of English and American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark, where he was director of American studies and associate director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience. Among the eight books he has published are Groundwaters: A Century of Art by Self-Taught and Outsider Artists (2011); Self-Taught Art: The Culture and Aesthetics of American Vernacular Art (2001); Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-Taught Art, edited with Carol Crown (2007); and Poets, Prophets, and Revolutionaries: The Literary Avant-Garde from Rimbaud through Postmodernism (1985). He also serves as trustee of Stella Waitzkin’s art estate.
Randall Morris is an independent scholar, writer, and curator. Current projects include writing for the upcoming catalogue of the Audrey Heckler Collection, an essay on the presence of conjure in the drawings of Bill Traylor, and research in cultural manifestations in the vernacular arts of the southern United States, the Caribbean, and North and South America. He is co-owner of Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York City, a gallery which, since the mid-eighties, has focused on the cultural aspects of nonmainstream, self-taught artists from all over the world. He also has an essay coming out in the upcoming retrospective at the Art Brut Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, on the Czech visionary artist Anna Zemankova.
Jo Farb Hernández, director of SPACES, is also director of the Thompson Art Gallery and professor at San José State University. A forty-plus-year veteran of the museum field and Fulbright Scholar, she has done intensive fieldwork on art environments since 1974. The groundbreaking book resulting from her research in Spain, Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments (Raw Vision, 2013), has been called the “...most impressive single volume of research ever published in the field of self-taught art.” She is a contributing editor for Raw Vision magazine, serves on the international editorial board for Elsewhere: The International Journal of Self-Taught and Outsider Art, and is a member of advisory boards for several art environments.