Contemporary scholars and critics have yet to agree on a term that accurately describes the range of artistic production by modern-day “folk artists.” Outsider, visionary, self-taught, vernacular are just a few of the most common labels placed upon the artists and their varied work. One term recently circulated is autodidact—an elevated way of saying “self-directed.” (Of course, the Renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci could rightly be termed an autodidact.) In many ways these self-directed, outsider artists share characteristics with their contemporaries who are mainstream or institutionally trained artists. They are frequently unpredictable and inventive, they take very personal approaches in the creation of their art, their narratives and use of symbols are often both direct and complex. Whatever nomenclature we might choose, the best of contemporary folk art is exciting, thought provoking, and genuine; in other words, projecting the same qualities that distinguish most great art.
Outsiders on the Inside presents a selection of objects from the museum’s growing collection of contemporary folk art. Many of the artists, such as Mose Tolliver, are native to Alabama. Other artists represented in the exhibition include Charlie Lucas, R. A. Miller, Bernice Sims, and Jimmy Lee Sudduth.