"Anything for the Master … to get [people] to understand that they need the Lord," said 82-year-old Howard Finster at a recent book signing. Finster, a Baptist who had preached at tent revival meetings for 40 years, says the Lord told him in 1965 to "give up the preaching of sermons; paint my pictures." To date, this "superstar" outsider artist has completed "forty-four thousand, five hundred and something" pieces of art (CT, July 15, 1988, p. 59).
"Outsider artists" are those who make art without benefit of—or perhaps hindrance of—formalized art education. Their work is often described as nave or childlike, and they might use whatever they have on hand as supplies—cardboard, wood scraps, paper bags, house paint, even mud. Most don't consider themselves artists.
So why has outsider art gained such a tremendous following in recent years by art collectors around the world?
The answer may be found in the comment of one admirer: "There is something about the immediacy, the honesty, the highly personal content of outsider art and artists that speaks directly to my spirit."
Like Finster, many outsider artists create art because they believe the Lord wants them to: "God puts these pictures in my head and I just puts them on canvas, like he wants me to," said the late Clementine Hunter, whose Cotton Crucifixion is shown on our cover. "God moves my hand," said street-preacher-turned-painter Sister Gertrude Morgan.
Yet Christian orthodoxy might bend slightly to the artist's own personal vision: "I am the bride of Christ," Morgan also claimed.
In this issue are five renderings of the crucifixion of Jesus (plus one as the resurrected King). We hope these interpretations by Clementine Hunter, Mose Tolliver, Oswald Tschirtner, Matt Lamb, Ian Pyper, and Lila Graves allow you to see the inner truth of the cross through outsiders' eyes.
Cover: Clementine Hunter is one of the most important black folk artists of the twentieth century. She once had a sign on her door: "Clementine Hunter, Artist, 50 cents to look." She died in 1988 in Louisiana.
COVER PHOTO COURTESY OF "OUTSIDE ARTIST" GALLERY: Cotton Crucifixion
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