The Outlier Problem

Problems, problems, problems. You don’t have to be Einstein—or Jerry Saltz—to know the term ‘outsider art’ is fraught with problems. It’s a superfluous category, not least because the contemporary art world already sees itself as inclusive, extolling the aesthetics of difference alongside capitalism’s thirst for the new. Throw in intersectional identity politics and the issue of demarcating ‘insiders’ from ‘outsiders’ becomes even more complex, turning one person’s marginality into another person’s privilege.

 

Image: 

James "Son Ford" Thomas
Untitled, 1988
Unfired clay, paint, human teeth, rocks, aluminium foil
overall: 17.1 x 11.4 x 17.8 cm
Souls Grown Deep Foundation, Atlanta, from the William S. Arnett Collection

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Wes Hill is Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture at Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.