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Revelations and Reflections of Self-Taught Artists

September 4 - October 17, 2004


Spirituality, a theme central to art for as long as humans have been engaged in the creative process, is given accessible and vibrant expression in Revelations and Reflections of Self-Taught Artists, opening on September 4, 2004 at the Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College in Moraga.

Art historians and critics have grappled with descriptive terms for artists without formal training since the days of Grandma Moses. They have been labeled self-taught, outsider, naïve, visionary, vernacular, or folk artists. From preachers to prisoners to social isolates, these fifty-five self-taught artists come from all walks of life and all regions of the country. While prophetic and apocalyptic depictions of heaven, hell, purgatory, angels, devils, and demons abound, powerful personal and societal issues of poverty, sexual brutality, and racism are confronted with a raw boldness and often with humor. Removed from the formal conventions of art, these artists have intuitively mastered the elements of color, form, composition, and texture. Ironically, self-taught artists have profoundly influenced the mainstream art world, particularly by their use of unexpected materials and by deft ability to mix text and images.

Many self-taught artists have a profound influence on family members, who also take up the making of art. Reverend Howard Finster and his son, Michael Finster, and Mose Tolliver and his daughter, Annie Tolliver, are two of the family groups represented in the exhibition. Other artists on view include Ronald and Jesse Cooper, Matryce West, and Jane Winkelman. In addition to paintings, drawings, sculptures, and ceramics, the exhibition includes ingenious constructions assembled from eclectic materials including tin, fabric, glass, gas heaters, shoes, doors, mud, bones, and tree roots.

Re-opening in the Keith Room is a selection of cigar box and panel paintings from the 1890s through 1909 from the College collection and private lenders by late 19th century master landscape artist William Keith (1838-1911). The miniature Keith paintings and frames have recently been conserved; most are on public view for the first time. A display of professional conservation materials and methods used to maintain oil on wood paintings is also on view.

On Saturday, September 18, 2004, people of all ages are invited to Family Day: Recycled Art. Inspired by some of the unorthodox and reused materials in "Reflections and Revelations of Self-Taught Artists," and in the Keith Room, create constructions out of recycled materials. Visitors may draw from life, make a print, or turn an old shoebox into a work of art or scraps of wood into a birdhouse. Popular East Bay art teachers will lead the hands-on activities from 2 until 5 p.m. in the Art Gallery courtyard and the Brother Kyran Art Room.

Revelations and Reflections of American Self-Taught Artists is curated by Robert Cugno and Robert Logan, directors of Media Gallery in Garnett, Kansas. The exhibition is organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA. The purpose of ExhibitsUSA is to create access to an array of arts and humanities exhibitions, nurture the development and understanding of diverse art forms and cultures, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. ExhibitsUSA is a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1972.

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Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.