SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 29, 2016 — Drury University’s Pool Art Center Gallery will host the exhibition “Ozark Outsiders” October 7 through 28. The show features eight regional artists known for works that fall outside the confines of the traditional art world, and who were largely untrained. The show’s curator is Patricia Watts, who moved to Springfield in 2013 after living in California for 32 years. Her family settled in the Ozarks in Webster County in the early 1800s, where she spent her summers growing up in the 1960s-80s, with a regional appreciation for self-directed creativity.
The term “outsider” can be off-putting to some in the art world, and determining if an artist is an outsider depends on a number of traits and conditions, including the artist’s motivations, skill set, and training.
“One of the more difficult ways to assess this work is to make a judgment on the level of authenticity of expression,” says Watts, the curator. “This begs the question: can a pure form of creativity be taught in art schools? Is a naive approach more pure than having the technical skills and access to art-making materials?”
The Ozark Outsiders exhibit includes artists who, whether for reasons of mental health, physical disabilities, or because they simply like to use the visual arts as a medium of expression, ultimately made their art for themselves. The featured artists include:
James Edward Deeds, Jr. (1908-1987) was raised in Christian County and was confined at the Missouri State Hospital No. 3 in Nevada for most of his life. While there, he made hundreds of drawings. His “electric pencil drawings” were first shown in 2014 at Art Inspired in Springfield, where artists with disabilities explore their creativity through art activities.
Joseph Elmer Yoakum (1889-1972) grew up in Ash Grove and made hundreds of animated landscape drawings after an emotional breakdown while living near Chicago in the 1960s. Yoakum has yet to be given his due locally, even though he was featured in a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City one month prior to his death.
Robert E. Smith (1927-2010) lived in Springfield for 40 years and is well known to the regional art community for his childlike mappings painted on canvas, often accompanied with a letter or and/or a cassette tape. His work is portrayed in a large mural downtown at the corner of Campbell and Walnut streets.
Ralph Doss Lanning (1916-2009) was born and raised in Greene County, and also is well known in the local art community. His outdoor sculpture garden of cement and carved limestone figures was previously located in a roadside setting along Highway 70 in Republic.
Lucille Stoll (born 1922) is one of three included artists still living. Born at home in Christian County, she has lived off of Highway Z all of her adult life, painting landscapes in oils. After a stroke at age 73, she returned exclusively to her childhood expression of making drawings with pencil on paper. She is self-taught and has not previously shown her work in an academic art venue.
Tim West (1938-2012), from Winslow, Arkansas, is the only artist in the exhibition who was formally trained, but due to family problems and his desire to live “off the grid” in the woods, his art became more informed by visions of his mental states rather than his exposure to an arts education.
Sammy Landers (born 1957) lives in a group home in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he has resided since the early 1980s. He is autistic and a self-taught artist who uses his art as a means of visual expression to communicate daily life events. He draws human figures, plants, and buildings using markers, pens, and crayons on paper.
Ed Stilley (born 1930) is a preacher from Hogscald Hollow in northwest Arkansas. In his mid-50s, he says he was told by God to make guitars from scrap wood and give them away for free to children. By 2005, he had crafted more than 200 instruments with Biblical verses carved and painted on them. Springfield photographer Tim Hawley recently published a book on Stilley titled Gifted, which helped put the artist on the “outsider” map.
About the Curators
Patricia Watts is Consulting Curator for the Marin Community Foundation in Northern California, since 2012, where she organizes large monographic exhibitions of under recognized mature artists. She was formerly Chief Curator at the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa. Watts feels that the Ozarks are rich with independent, creative people who are waiting to be discovered. Learn more about her endeavors atwattsartadvisory.com.
Assistant Curator Kate Tuthill graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in Art History, focused on modern and contemporary art. A Northern California native, Tuthill has worked in the New York art world at: the Whitney Museum of American Art; The Museum of Modern Art; Christie’s; and Gagosian Gallery. She relocated to Springfield with her husband in 2014, and serves as board member for Sculpture Walk Springfield and docent for Springfield Art Museum.
Attached image: “Ozark Mts., St. Jeneeveive, Mo” by Joseph Elmer Yoakum. Pen, pencil, and watercolor on paper. Image courtesy of Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago.
Drury is an independent University, church related, grounded in the liberal arts tradition and committed to personalized education in a community of scholars who value the arts of teaching and learning. Education at Drury seeks to cultivate spiritual sensibilities and imaginative faculties as well as ethical insight and critical thought; to foster the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge; and to liberate persons to participate responsibly in and contribute to a global community.