Review — Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and Trauma

Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and Trauma, by Daniel Wojcik. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, MS, 276 pages, 174 color illustrations, 2016. ISBN: 978-1496808066. Hardcover, $45

Outsider Art: Visionary Worlds and TraumaCan we agree that the art still sometimes known as outsider is much more interesting than what to call it? It might seem a simple enough proposition, yet arguments over the label continue to distract from the art, even among those who consider the debate mostly fruitless.

Daniel Wojcik’s book is a case in point. When it’s good, it’s very good, providing sensitive, thoughful accounts of the art and its creators, with real insights into the psychological, cultural and practical dimensions of their art making. Wojcik does consume a few too many precious pages diving into decades-old polemics, however, recounting the traditional indictment that charges the O word with elitism, exclusion and marginalization. Continue reading

About those Ventures

It took a long time to get to the Ventures in my project to rip and sell a large vinyl collection. I left them for the end because, frankly, I wasn’t sure I could face listening to the hours of music my Ventures 24 albums contained.

These guys released some two dozen albums in the first half of the 1960s alone, and they must have been desperate for material. How else to explain why a song like Jimmy Crack Corn – a standby from everyone’s second or third music lesson — would wind up on Dance With The Ventures (also known as Twist Party Vol. 2 — itself a title that speaks volumes about the integrity of this group’s artistic vision).

It’s not that the Ventures were bad. In fact, it turned out I’ve enjoyed listening to the hours of instrumentals I ripped. But in their vast output it’s not always easy to find the kind of passion you expect in headlining musicians. And how could they be so unalterably square in a period when being hip was not that hard, something that Johnny Cash so ably demonstrated? Yes, I’m happy today that I can listen to their rendition of the Get Smart theme, but its existence speaks volumes about what the Ventures weren’t up to in the 1960s. Continue reading

Angkor Temples: Highlights

To grasp the impact of the temples around Angkor Wat, think of Chartres. Chartres is wonderful — here you find a dozen-plus Chartres, all within 45 minutes of each other. The Cambodian temples are every bit as spectacular as their reputation would have you believe. Their massive scale, their finely crafted detail, their lovely jungle settings, their ruin and their restoration combine to make this one of the world’s great places.

Yes, it is very hot, and many of the sites are crowded with tourists. Some temples were probably over restored. But the architecture is compelling and the sculpture fascinating.
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