Treasures of the Soul: Who is Rich?
Artist Judith Scott with Cocoon, Photo by Leon Borensztein
October 7, 2000 - September 2, 2001
Curated by Marcus Schubert
My first encounter with the work of an "Outsider" or "Self-taught Visionary" dates back to 1983. While planning a journey through Europe to photograph landscapes and just prior to my departure from Canada, I viewed a television segment about Ferdinand Cheval's Palais Idéal. I was transfixed. Those few moments altered my destiny, triggering a study that transformed my notions about creativity.
When I arrived at Cheval's creation in the sleepy French village of Hauterives, I found myself awe-struck - beholding a fantastic three-story edifice profusely decorated with concrete sculpture. There stood the result of thirty-three years' labor, created by a country mailman, simply for the joy and intense need of its making, a process dedicated to the realization of one man's uniquely personal domain. Its grandiloquence reminded me of a timeless exotic temple, built for the eccentric king of an archaic civilization. The experience spoke of uncompromising commitment to the private quest for something cosmic and profoundly original. As I quietly sat on a bench scanning the structure, a rush of new ideas about the meaning and value of art took root. Suddenly, I felt privileged to secrets undisclosed by professors of academic art. Inspired by the revelation, I began to investigate and photograph the world of "Art Brut" and "Outsider Art." Seventeen years after that enchanting initiation, I am honored to have the joy of gathering together and presenting the wealth of human spirit offered in "Treasures of the Soul: Who is Rich?"
Works in the Treasury are lavish. We find expressions of overwhelming abundance, not only of material embellishment through painstaking detail, but also of spiritual devotion. Here, even secular items such as jewel boxes and travel trunks echo the mystical function of memory jugs as an earthly home for wandering souls. There is a meditative sense to these explorations, a process leading both artist and viewer toward breathtaking conclusions.
Shadows and Echoes
In Shadows and Echoes we encounter a grouping of figurative works that seem to emerge from obscure, dreamlike recesses of memory. These bold archetypal images resonate with a primordial aesthetic; reminiscent of Paleolithic art found in caves throughout Europe or the ancient Anasazi pictographs inscribed on canyon walls of the American Southwest. At once personal and universal, they appear as icons of a spectral inner-Self charged with potent traces of humanity.
In this gallery we explore the transformation of elementary material and illustrate themes concerning gestation and rebirth. As a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis to a renaissance on wings, the "cocoon" harboring potential for new life, here becomes a visual metaphor relating to creative evolution and an allegory for the ultimate liberation of spirit from matter.
Each year during Mardi Gras, Raimundo Borges Falcao becomes a flamboyant kinetic sculpture, as he floats through town on homemade roller skates. Falcao devotes his life to the creation of ornate costumes from a hoard of precious trash stored in the windowless shed where he lives in rural Brazil. His homage to the Afro-Brazilian sea-goddess Yemanya, also finds a place in Transformations, as do the enigmatic wrapped canes of mysterious Harry Ponder, who lived in the rail-yards of Missouri.
Here we find a tribute to the inner strength and vision of those who transform the human condition, then whisper it back reborn as their gift of poetic wisdom. These individuals reinvent their Self from its very source, reaching inward to nurture things essential, vulnerable and enduring. Their explorations beckon us toward a slender threshold of what is real and what is imagined, delivering to our eyes impassioned soliloquies from quiet anxious territories of self-reflection.