NONCONFORMERS: A NEW HISTORY OF SELF-TAUGHT ARTISTS - RAW VISION

NONCONFORMERS: A NEW HISTORY OF SELF-TAUGHT ARTISTS

First published: Summer 2022

In this excerpt from the new book Nonconformers: A New History of Self-Taught Artists, the author sets forth her intentions for an updated, progressive, yet nuanced approach.

 

Nonconformers is an effort to reframe and advance the recognition of artists and dialogue often prefaced by the descriptor “self-taught”. Applied broadly, this blunt definition for not having formal academic training in the arts is layered with presumptions of a segregation from cultural influence; a lack of creative agency; an unsophisticated aesthetic or process; and operation in a separate trajectory to the established art world.

 

Mary T Smith’s Mississippi property, n.d., photo: Willem Volkersz, courtesy: SPACES

 

Nonconformers reframes the featured artists and creatives by demonstrating that they continually defy and challenge these prohibitive characteristics. As nonconformers, they, in fact, do not fit or conform to these categorical presumptions. Here, we examine the unique circumstances of each artist, including how their individual situations often presented predetermined cultural and personal conditions, such as racial oppression, poverty, mental illness, and disability.

 


William Scott, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on paper, 20 × 28 in. / 51 × 71 cm, courtesy: artist and Creative Growth Art Center

 

This recognition poses that discriminatory positioning for many was more complex than the concept of being self-taught. Through this reexamination, a pedagogy for addressing difference and adversity that is both critical and necessary is adapted. These shifts are a revelatory, albeit at times subtle, progression in the evolving framework on how to present, discuss and describe the oeuvre of artists currently prefaced as self-taught.


 

By LISA SLOMINSKI

 

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #111