Rethinking ‘outsider art’

Creativity Watch
By NATHAN FOGG  |  September 5, 2012

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When I walk into 611 Congress Street, I forget that the Art Department and Shoot Media are day programs designed for individuals with special needs. The art being produced in this unique alternative-arts venue feels devoid of the self-consciousness so often associated with emerging contemporary galleries. This is outsider art at its best. Multimedia projects based on inclusion rather than the isolation so often associated with outsider art. The work is fun and the programs are carving out a niche for themselves in the heart of Portland's art district without a hint of irony or pretension.

Curatorial and production directors Liz Mortati and Henry Powell give these projects parameters and cohesion without watering down the impressively unique ideas of the artists themselves. They produce work that can be disarmingly honest and heartfelt or refreshingly whacky and eccentric. There is something universal about a print depicting a fork and peas with the caption, "Pees are hard to fork at."

Local visiting artists and program directors help flesh out these ideas — which most of us don't even have access to. In fact, these programs redefine and question the label "outsider art," removing descriptions of the creators and allowing the work to stand as art on its own merits.

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Their just-ended residency at the ICA at MECA produced an installation and a magazine, Lazer Hotel. The next project is open starting Friday during the art walk. "Paper Airplanes and Other Flying Objects" includes a new film and several 2-D and 3-D projects relating to flying — including a soft sculpture of David Hasselhoff's winged head! The Furry Ambers will perform starting at 6:30 pm.
  Topics: This Just In , Art, outsider art
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