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Outsider Art - Visionary Worlds and Trauma

Outsider Art

Visionary Worlds and Trauma

By Daniel Wojcik
Hardcover : 9781496808066, 276 pages, 174 color illustrations, August 2016

An unparalleled exploration of the power of art and the impulse of creation


Outsider art has exploded onto the international art scene, gaining widespread attention for its startling originality and visual power. As an expression of raw creativity, outsider art remains associated with self-taught visionaries, psychiatric patients, trance mediums, eccentric outcasts, and unschooled artistic geniuses who create things outside of mainstream artistic trends and styles. Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and Trauma provides a comprehensive guide through the contested terrain of outsider art and the related domains of art brut, visionary art, “art of the insane,” and folk art. The book examines the history and primary issues of the field as well as explores the intersection between culture and individual creativity that is at the very heart of outsider art definitions and debates.

Daniel Wojcik's interdisciplinary study challenges prevailing assumptions about the idiosyncratic status of outsider artists. This wide-ranging investigation of the art and lives of those labeled outsiders focuses on the ways that personal tragedies and suffering have inspired the art-making process. In some cases, trauma has triggered a creative transformation that has helped artists confront otherwise overwhelming life events. Additionally, Wojcik's study illustrates how vernacular traditions, religious worldviews, ethnic heritage, and popular culture have influenced such art. With its detailed consideration of personal motivations, cultural milieu, and the potentially therapeutic aspects of art making, this volume provides a deeper understanding of the artistic impulse and human creativity.


"By exploring personal histories and traumatic experiences of creative people sometimes living at the fringe of society, Daniel Wojcik brings new insights into the phenomenon of outsider art. This comprehensive study will influence how outsider art is now seen and evaluated; it blurs the boundaries between insiders and outsiders and contributes to our understanding of art today. Engagingly written and wonderfully illustrated—in full color!—this is an essential resource that takes the reader on a mesmerizing and inspiring journey. Where are my paint brushes?"

- Peter Jan Margry, professor of European ethnology, University of Amsterdam

"In his new book, Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and Trauma, [Wojcik] combines exhaustively researched profiles of these artists with stirring, revealing examples of their work. He tries to humanize those he says are frequently misunderstood. "

- Cascade

"A timely and comprehensive survey of the powerful impetus behind outsider art, assessing both its development and its future. "

- John Maizels, editor of Raw Vision magazine

"The definitive book about so-called outsider art . . . those seriously interested in the matter will find this study compelling and convincing. Throw away all other books that purport to deal with this business and leave only Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and Trauma on the shelf. None others needed. "

- Kenneth Ames, professor emeritus, Bard Graduate Center (New York), and author of Death in the Dining Room

"Lavishly illustrated, many of the images never before seen by the public, this indispensable volume is steeped in details about the lives of outsider and visionary artists. Authoritative, informative, and accessible, this groundbreaking volume is a work of art itself as well as a monumental achievement in scholarship, one that forces us to rethink conventional notions of art and creativity. "

- Michael Owen Jones, professor emeritus, Department of World Arts and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles

"Daniel Wojcik’s book is a seminal text and a gift to the arts therapy community and those interested in the life-enhancing and transformative qualities of artistic expression. Wojcik’s book is a 'must-read' for everyone training to work with the arts in therapy because of its unparalleled breadth and the inspiring variety of illustrations of how art heals persons and communities. Wojcik’s volume is by far one of the most stimulating and informative works that I have read in recent years regarding art and healing. "

- Shaun McNiff, professor and founder of the Expressive Therapies program at Lesley University; author of Art as Medicine; Trust the Process; Art Heals; and Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression

"Wojcik's new book seems destined to become an essential text for understanding the field today. Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and Trauma now brings a great deal of clarity and understanding not only to one of the major hotbeds of activity in the international art market, but to the creative act itself. It is a must-read for anyone serious about better understanding this fascinating subject. "

- Roger Manley, director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University and curator of exhibitions of self-taught art at more than forty other institutions, including the American Visionary Art Museum

"Wojcik's informed writing—demonstrated by an almost encyclopedic knowledge of self-taught and outsider art and history—his original research, his balanced and nuanced thinking, the representative examples he discusses, and his ability to articulate his findings make this book required reading for anyone interested in outsider, self-taught, or contemporary folk art. "

- Carol Crown, professor emerita, University of Memphis, and coeditor of Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-Taught Art