1.5_The term “Outsider Art”

24May 2007

1.5_The term outsider art

I would like to address the term Outsider Art simply because it implies a self-taught artist, and that implies an artist of less worth than a university trained artist.  I reject that a degree from a university defines an artist as an insider or outsider.  Tuition fees do not dictate talent and the aesthetic freedom of the arts.  The trained monkey from the university was told what to learn.  The contrast between a self taught artist and a university trained one weighs down many artists.  Grants, juried exhibitions, and other contested entries for emerging artists to gain some recognition, all look at the artist’s history for a university degree.  We are told that it does not matter, and we know that it does.  The insider artist gains every advantage simply with a degree.  As if a university trained artist has worked harder than a self taught one; earning their title through tuition.  Contrary, the self taught artist sacrifices more, works harder, is more prolific and innovative than the trained monkey.
I reject the idea that self taught artists are outsider artists.  The term outsider artist is a derogatory, classist, limited view point from the economically elite collectors, who are essentially investors that see purchasing works of art as a sound long-term investment.  Originally the term outsider art was used to describe the artwork of insane asylum inmates.  Gradually the term came to be used as artwork created outside of the established schools of art.  Today outsider art means both culturally and educationally outside of the status quo.  Regardless of its current definition or popular celebration with our current generation, the term outside artist illuminates the artist in a negative light.

With the implication that the term outsider art brings with it, like naive art, art of the insane, self-taught and self-educated, it within itself is a passive aggressive method of economic classism within the art world that describes the self-taught, self-made artists as less than the artists of the status quo.  It is the very same artists described as outsiders that create the innovations that the university elite are groomed to mimic poorly.  As they stand there in front of their easels being the monkey with their tin cups begging for ideas, as they grovel through art history, the university trained artist rarely develops a language all their own.  

How dare our artistic establishments frown on the self-taught artists.  To be an artist is intrinsically the rejection of established values within the system of governing thought.  I reject the term “Outsider Art,” the idea that works of art produced outside the boundaries of the official art world are to be considered Outsider Art.  

Some have chosen to adorn the term as a badge of sovereignty, proudly and defiantly claiming that flag”Outsider Artist” to be reclaimed and reassociated from the foresight of classism.  I reject the term Outsider Artist for its biased, classist, label system for the wealth elite.  Either you are an artist, or you are not.  It is that simple.