press: Issues of interest

What is outsider art?

JAF Board member, Fred DuBose, spoke at a program in his hometown of Corsicana, TX on the subject of Outsider Art and why it is "suddenly so hot". 2018

Fred DuBose, son of Fred DuBose who once owned the Corsicana Daily Sun, spoke at Kinsloe House Wednesday

on the subject of Outsider Art. DuBose is an art lover who resides on Manhattan's Upper West Side for over 30 years. 

(Photo by Deanna Kirk  for Corsicana Daily Sun)

By Deanna Kirk for The Corsicana (TX) Daily Sun, April 20, 2018 

Appreciation for the art form known as “Outsider Art” was the focus of the program at Kinsloe House Wednesday, when Fred DuBose, Corsicana native but now Manhattan’s Upper West side resident for 30-plus years, shared his knowledge.


DuBose all but grew up in the old Corsicana Daily Sun building, due to his father’s long career at the newspaper. His dad, Fred Sr., sold the Daily Sun in 1967, and he, his wife Dee, and daughters Diana and Cassandra have now all passed on.


DuBose went to the South Pacific as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tonga in his 20s-30s, and wound up as a book editor in Sydney, Australia. He returned to the states, and resided in Atlanta for a time before moving to New York City, where he’s been in Manhattan for 30-plus years.


He took early retirement in 2002 from Reader’s Digest, but still writes or edits reference books of all types. He has two Australian-American daughters and three grandchildren.


Though he has no degree in art history, DuBose’s love of art is what drove him to learn all he could about art. His most recent passion or obsession is Outsider Art, where people wanted to draw or were driven to create without formal training.


“These were the people most removed from the art world,” DuBose said. “This kind of folk art is in a few museums across the United States, and some even have folk art curators. But there’s never been major exhibitions of Outsider Art until now.”


With several artists in residence from 100 West in the audience, including Kyle Hobratschk, Nancy Rebel and David Searcy, DuBose went on to share a slide show with examples of several artists’ works.


“This art form is coming into its own,” he said. “There is one person credited with getting it up to the first tier. The Metropolitan Museum of Art will have a display of this artist’s works next month. Bill Traylor was the only artist in this movement born into slavery, and he did not draw until the age of 85.”


DuBose went on to describe the works of Nellie Mae Rowe, James Castle, Knox Wilkinson Jr. and Howard Finster, who believed God had told him to spread the word of God through art.


“He became something of a celebrity, which he didn’t mind,” DuBose said. “He was commissioned by the Talking Heads and R.E.M. to do album covers for them.”


He also described the works and quirks of Sister Gertrude Morgan from New Orleans, who was “told by God to sing, dance and paint — and later called herself the “Bride of Christ.” She did go on to start an orphanage as well.


Raymond Isidore who was known for “Broken plates” since he made mosaics out of any piece of pottery.

“His home and its surroundings are part of French history,” he said. “He broke a lot of plates to make mosaics, in the house, outside the house. Obsessiveness was the key to many of these artists.”


Simon Rodia purchased four oddly-shaped acres in Watts, and made a gigantic structure of art on the property that is now known as a national landmark. DuBose said Rodia, once finished, simply deeded the property to a cousin and moved away.


DuBose went on to describe the works of St. Eom, Adolph Wolfli (who was schizophrenic and did his art from the asylum), Martin Ramirez, Grandma Moses (who doesn’t really qualify as Outsider Art), Linda Anderson, Traylor and Wayne Hall, a gentlemen born in Kerens in 1966.


“Nancy Rebel and David Searcy discovered Hall at a booth for Derrick Days,” he said. “He doesn’t think of it as art, it’s more like puzzles.”