These artists have been referred to as “outsiders,” “self-taught,” and “visionary.” I was initially dismayed by the word nonconformers because I don’t consider these artists as rebels refusing to conform. They were, and are, driven by creativity, ensconced within their own imaginations, and using the materials at hand. Bill Traylor, Henry Darger, Niki de Saint Phalle, and so many others didn’t require an art education to produce their work. They created.
A global history of self-taught artists advocating for a nuanced understanding of modern and contemporary art often challenged by the establishment
When the art world has paid attention to makers from outside the cultural establishment, including so-called outsider and self-taught artists, it has generally been within limiting categories. Yet these artists, including many women, people with disabilities, and people of color, have had a transformative effect on the history of modern art. Responding to growing interest in these artists, this book offers a nuanced history of their work and how it has been understood from the early twentieth century to the present day.
Nonconformers includes work by Henry Darger, Hilma af Klint, and Bill Traylor alongside that of many other artists who deserve widespread recognition. The book reviews how self-taught artists influenced key movements of twentieth-century art and highlights the voices of contemporary practitioners, offering new interviews with William Scott, Mamadou Cissé, and George Widener. An international group of contributors addresses topics such as the development of the Black Folk Art movement in America and l’Art Brut in France, the creative process of self-taught artists working outside of traditional studios, and the themes of figuration, landscape, and abstraction. Global in scope and with chronological breadth, this alternative narrative is an essential introduction to the genre long known as “Outsider Art.”
About the Author
Lisa Slominski is an American curator, writer, and cultural producer based in London. She provides a voice of diversity and inclusivity within a contemporary art context and lectures on the topic of “Outsider Art,” including for Queen Mary University of London.
“[A] handsomely produced book . . . A section on the self-taught architecture in grand structures by Sabato “Simon” Rodia, builder of the Watts Tower in Los Angeles, and Nek Chand Saini, creator of the Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India, gives welcome attention to constructed monumental projects that self-taught designers imagine but rarely build.”—David D’Arcy, Art Newspaper
“Featuring William Edmondson, Bill Traylor, Aloïse Corbaz and more, this book highlights marginalized artists.”—New York Times Book Review
“An essential addition to any discerning art lover’s collection . . . An informative and important companion for art aficionados, budding curators and total novices alike.”—Vanity Fair London
“It’s gripping—the chapter on Lee Godie alone!”—Lena Dunham, on Instagram
One of ARTnews’s 10 Best Art Books for Summer Reading, 2022
“Nonconformers underlines the relevance of self-taught artists, be it aesthetic, spiritual, or practical. It’s a must read for those who wish to expand their knowledge of Art in totality.”—Dr. Joyce J. Scott, visual artist/MacArthur Fellow
“A provocative and meticulous study of over 60 self-taught artists from around the world. Even more importantly, it questions the history, includes essays from global experts, and redefines the entire genre.”—Iain Jackson, University of Liverpool
“The artist Lonnie Holley recently referred to himself as ‘self-taught…the same way Neil Armstrong might have described himself as a self-taught moon walker.’ Lisa Slominski’s new book Nonconformers approaches creativity with the same spirit—that the work of artists like Holley and others is expansive and without bounds. It points to a future where these artists lead the way, as they have all along.”—Annalise Flynn, independent art historian and curator