This year, the Outsider Art Fair took residence in the former Dia Foundation Building on 22nd Street, which has remained vacant since Dia moved their offices several years ago. Exhibitors at this year’s fair brought a collection of Outsider art that spans the past 100 years. Unlike the traditional fine art world, some Outsider and folk artists are unknown but still celebrated in the exhibition forum.
Many artists who are unable to source art supplies work with found objects. Erika Wananacher’s beautiful bird sculpture is made entirely from glass found in a ditch, then welded together to create the crystalline bird. David Boyer also combines found objects with metals, and his religious iconography is made of old buttons and metal figures. The late Gayleen Aiken created works on anything she could, including old cardboard.
Many exhibiting artists fuse snippets of cast-off objects into conglomerate sculptures. Known as only “Richard,” one artist’s work incorporated old doll heads, beads, candy wrappers and trinkets into eerie sculptural creatures reminiscent of a creepy attic that was feared in childhood. Sandra Sheehy uses these same materials, but without the identifying doll heads, so the pieces take on an organic feel. Her stone and string sculptures look like a species of coral growing on an ocean floor.
Perhaps the most exhibited artist at the show was Haiti’s Martine Birobent. Birobent’s work combines old dolls, religious iconography, and remnant yarn and fabric. Knitting these pieces together to form mask like enclosures, the childhood dolls take on a more ominous and tribal tone, with obvious influence from African and Caribbean cultures.
As usual, the Outsider Art Fair brought an exquisite display of upcycled art under one roof.
Images ©Lori Zimmer for Inhabitat