OUTSIDER ON THE EDGE
My old buddy El Prof called me the other day to ask a question. He'd been seeing a woman who, like him, taught art in college. "Don't take this wrong..." he started "but you know my girlfriend Ms. Whitney teaches this class on outsider art and....well.....I've been telling her about your work and....would you be insulted????" I knew where he was going with this. "She wants to talk about my work as "OUTSIDER ART"!!!!????" I deducted, feigning incense and insult. "Is that OK?" El Prof asked, meekly. "I'd be honored."
I have three degrees- two in art and one in theology. All this education and I'm finally being lumped in with Howard Finster and Grandma Moses. I couldn't be more pleased. In fact, aside for one brief period in the 80's, when I had a gallery in NY city, I've always considered myself an outsider. The artworld and I have an agreement. They ignore me and I distain them. I don't go to galleries nor museums, read art magazines, or in any way participate in their reindeer games. This does not, nor never has, slowed down my art production. Once in a great while (usually due to El Prof) I drop in on academia and share a little. If someone wanted to pigeon hole me as an "outsider", so be it.
Then, last night I got a call from El Prof, informing me that the lecture had taken place. After a semester of Finster and Darger, Ms. Whitney presented my work. "You pissed them off." El Prof said with a self satisfied giggle. I'm not sure of the scope of the presentation, but I do know she showed some of the disposabletv episodes. After months of quiet acceptance of all the outsiders before me, the students could not wrap their heads around my little home movies. They argued. They questioned. They rejected and denied my relevance. As if by magic, the class woke up. They had ultimately found an issue that they could rally around. If there was one thing the class could agree upon it was that I was no artist- outsider or otherwise. I was pleased. Ms. Whitney was pleased. El Prof was pleased.
If there's one thing i know about it's that if you are doing work that looks like art you better watch yourself. Sure, you may have shows and sell and maybe even have a great career, but in the end will you make any impression at all? Art is one of the few fields that demands that you change the rules constantly. The great ones like Van Gogh, Duchamp, Beuys, Klein and Burden all fucked with the rules. I'm not on that level. But in my own little way I try every day to make art that no one will recognize as such. So when students see me having way too much fun in front of a shaky flip cam, and the teacher is trying to contextualize it as art....I applaud their rejection. That proves what I'm doing is working. Phew! I still got it.