Best Outsider Art

Rare Visions–Detour Art

Los Angeles and New York — "the coasts" — are the heavy regional influencers in American culture, each city like an ironic air quotation mark mocking everything in between them. Here in "flyover country," by which we mean everywhere else, there are thousands of talented artists who are seldom recognized by the artistic establishment. So it's doubly ironic that when "outsider art" receives any kind of major attention, it's usually in those two coastal cities. But earlier this year, Kansas City's Belger Arts Center mounted a major exhibit of outsider art called Rare Visions–Detour Art, in conjunction with KCPT Channel 19's Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, a documentary series on outsider art. It was a knockout. The exhibit included regional works by the Rev. Howard Finster, James Harold Jennings and Q.J. Stephenson, placing their works in a serious context in the austere Belger gallery, a space large enough to drive a truck through — which the exhibit also did, with Erika Nelson's decorated van containing the world's largest collection of the world's smallest versions of the world's largest things. The exhibit's Devil Room pulled together regional depictions of Lucifer, a major mover and shaker in outsider art, tormenting the damned or tumescent, riding a tricycle.

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