Book Review: Envisioning Howard Finster

Envisioning Howard Finster: The Religion and Art of a Stranger from Another World, by Norman J. Girardot, University of California Press, 304 pages, 16 color plates and 20 b/w illustrations, 2015. ISBN 978-0520261105. Paperback, $29.95 The prolific southern visionary Howard Finster was something of an enigma. How much of his colorful output was a matter […]

Character Assassination: Colorful Apocalypse Review

The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art, by Greg Bottoms, University of Chicago Press, 200 pages, 2007. ISBN 978-0-226-06685-1 As an outsider to outsider art, Greg Bottoms is in a great position to ask uncomfortable questions that might otherwise run afoul of the field’s shibboleths and loyalties. Unfortunately, the questions he asks in this book […]

Of Context and Privilege: Southern Self-Taught Art

Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-Taught Art, Edited by Carol Crown and Charles Russell, University Press of Mississippi, 308 pages, 2007. ISBN 1-57806-916-5 (hardcover) This book is definitely not bound for the coffee table, with its undersized images and serious, occasionally turgid, prose. But that’s not the point of this art book, […]

Getting Religion on Its Own Terms

Coming Home! Self-Taught Artists, the Bible and the American South, edited by Carol Crown, with essays by Paul Harvey, Erika Doss, Hal Fulmer, Babatunde Lawal, Charles Reagan Wilson and N.J. Girardot, Art Museum of the University of Memphis with the University of Mississippi Press, 215 pages, 122 color plates, other color and b&w illustrations, 2004. ISBN 1-57806-659-X

Stereotypes have two inherent flaws: They often state the obvious and, when too generally applied, they become false. But they also are inescapable because, in the proper context, they are true.

Carol Crown’s exhibition and catalog, Coming Home! Self-Taught Artists, the Bible and the American South, can’t help but draw on Bible Belt stereotypes because they reflect a big slice of Southern reality. There is a lot more substance here than in many folk art theme shows, since the Bible really is the force behind a great deal of self-taught art.

Book Review
Authentic Heaven: The Vernacular Art of Urban Spirituality

How the Other Half Worships, by Camilo Jose Vergara, Rutgers University Press, 286 pages, 2005. ISBN 978-0-8135-3682-8 How The Other Half Worships celebrates one of the great engines of true vernacular expression – religion. The subject is inner-city churches, with an emphasis on the storefront variety. Camilo Jose Vergara has spent years visiting and photographing […]