I have always been drawn to outsider art, primitive, untrained, odd and sometimes even primal in the way it breaks the rules. I had years and years of art classes, none of my teachers ever appreciated my point of view. They wanted to teach me rules and techniques and the WAY IT SHOULD BE DONE… meaning their way, which was the right way… and I never could manage to duplicate anything they wanted me to do. I was clumsy, clunky and different.
I remember a time I had to do a landscape. My art teacher was a realist, he painted fish and ducks and farm scenes that looked like photographs. He was also a taxidermist. One of my friends later in life said he sounded like a Stephen King character, and he was. He kind of looked like Lenny from Laverne & Shirley. They called him Squiggy though. I never knew why. Anyway he had me painting a barn. I knew how to wash on the watercolors, build my shading and my sketch was good, but the problem came once I had to start with the details. I painted every damn piece of grass individually. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t make it look like his paintings. I never finished it, I’m sure I got a C for effort that semester, but I’ll never forget how I felt like such a failure. I just couldn’t do it his way.
Now that I’ve spent my life working with teenagers and raised my own two children I realize how unskilled he really was as a teacher. It wasn’t my job to copy him, it was his job to help me find my own point of view. To empower me as an artist to draw out of me what was inside and give it expression. How many bad teachers have we all had to endure, yet we still most likely all thought that it was us, and not them.
I think that’s why I’m drawn to outsider art. It’s so brave. It just stands out there and asks “what are you gonna do about it?”I have never had that kind of courage. Just blatant “THIS IS ME, THIS IS MY ART, THIS IS MY OPINION, THIS IS WHO I AM — WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?” I can’t even imagine what that would look like, or feel like — the freedom to just hang it all out there and not care.
I care about everything. Always. Permanently. Forever. I envy those folks who are just messy, or loud, or goofy or even mean without giving a shit about what other people think. I get so jealous. I live in a small community, pretty tight knit. There are a lot of oddballs, really in your face kind of folks. I always think “why do they get to be so strange, or so bossy, or so overbearing and yet when I do everyone squashes me?” I just want to be out there. I want to not care. I want to just be. Just be me.
Outsider art is also called raw art, “created outside of the boundaries of official culture”. I like that — raw — right out of the package — nothing done to it — just as it is. RAW. I want to be raw. I am already outside of the boundaries of official culture. I loathe official culture. I think it’s slavery. I am so tired of the culture enforcers. Those who look down their noses and decide who is in, who gets the invitation, who gets to play.
I’ve always been an outsider. I’ve always known I didn’t fit in. Autism has helped me to understand why — maybe once I get my diagnosis I’ll be able to not care if I fit in any more.