Comstock's magazine 0519 - May 2019 - Page 40

n OUTSIDER ART “I look at art as the great equalizer. It’s all-encompassing — all socioeconomic groups, all abilities. If you spend any time at our center with these artists, you get the sense that it’s a real, true, pure form of art they’re doing. These people aren’t getting caught up in the scene, it’s just what comes out — it’s a creativity you don’t see anywhere else.” — John Berger, program director, Short Center North 40 | May 2019 stream of thought — if someone is operating outside of that dialogue, there’s a fascination with how that’s happening,” Moe says. “It’s interesting when somebody challenges the mainstream paradigm and makes you consider where aes- thetic decision-making comes from, how the brain works, where inspiration comes from. It gets back to the core phil- osophical issues of art theory — why are we doing this in the first place? What makes art?” For others like John Soldano, an avid outsider art collec- tor and co-owner of the Toyroom Gallery — which exhibit- ed work by SCN clients for years starting in 2001 before the Sacramento gallery went entirely online — the best way to define the genre is by the makers of the work. “The only way for me to honestly define outsider art is by artists,” says Soldano, who estimates he’s collected rough- ly 30 outsider artworks over the years, including the work of Chris Mars, a self-taught artist from Minnesota. “Chris’s paintings are mostly done in oil or pastels and they’re usu- ally nightmarish portraits of distorted figures. Chris … was inspired by his brother, who was diagnosed with schizo- phrenia and institutionalized. I think of his paintings as a ref lection of what his brother might be going through. Chris has said, ‘In each piece, I am freeing my brother. I am creat-