An Insider’s Look at Vassar’s Outsider Art
Howard Finster's "Jesus Saves-Angel, 7/9/1992," oil and black marker on plywood
Vassar College has been collecting art since its founding in 1864, and the school’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center now has nearly 18,000 works, including the Warburg Collection of Old Master Prints and Matthew Vassar’s collection of Hudson River School paintings. The holdings also include an extensive array of work by outsider or “self-taught” artists, which was bolstered by a recent gift of 110 pieces by alumna Pat O’Brien Parsons (class of 1951), who ran a well-known gallery in Bedford, NY, in the 1970s. Now, curator Mary-Kay Lombino has selected more than 50 pieces by 39 different artists for Faith and Fantasy in Outsider Art from the Permanent Collection, which explores the spiritual dimensions of these artworks (such as Mose Tolliver’s Self Portrait in house paint on board, below) that were not made with a museum show in mind.
“Several of the artists in Faith and Fantasy use imagery that reflects their own intensely personal religious beliefs,” says Lombino. “They sometimes refer to spiritual visions they have experienced, while at other times creating their own interpretations of familiar themes such as Adam and Eve. The common focus on legend, myth, dreams, and fantasies can be seen as evidence of the artists’ alienation from family and community, thus further defining them as outsiders.
“As with many self-taught artists, they began their art practice outside of the mainstream venues of contemporary art, and several of them have moved steadily into a broader spectrum of acceptance and appreciation,” says Lombino. “They often demonstrate an all-consuming devotion to art-making and a tendency to create extremely personal and imaginative narratives, resulting in artwork that is highly individualized and idiosyncratic.”
Faith and Fantasy in Outsider Art from the Permanent Collection
Opening Reception and Lecture (free and open to the public)
Friday, February 13
Lecture: “Through the Lens of Language: Self Taught Artists from Dubuffet to Today,” by Brooke Davis Anderson, director and curator of the Contemporary Center and director of the Henry Study Center at the American Folk Art Museum
Taylor Hall, Room 203
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie; 845.437.5632
William Tyler’s “Swimming Pool,” colored pencil and black ink on paper