Skip to main content

mental health mondays :: the art of madness

there is an ongoing debate as to the interaction between mental disorders and artistic creativity. while it's difficult to document the subject, there does seem to be a cultural fascination with the idea of the artist having an eccentric mentality. likewise, so-called "outsider art" or "art brut" has a sort of cult following, as if we believe that such art unwittingly reveals something of the workings of the disordered mind.


the terms "outsider art" and "art brut" are somewhat confusing, as they are used interchangeably to refer to professional and/ or trained artists and "naive art" created by amateurs, without artistic education, many of whom have been discovered only late in life or posthumously.

french artist jean dubuffet, who coined the term "art brut" and, along with andre breton, was responsible for drawing attention to it and building a permanent collection, described it as art that existed outside the pressures of culture and therefore as something which could never be assimilated by the mainstream [since the artists did not operate within the confines of the mainstream]. this differentiates it from art which challenges cultural norms, since such artists are aware of [and responding to] their predominant culture.

the difference between genuine appreciators of outsider art and a freakshow audience seeking a spectacle is a fine one and chances are that such artists tend to attract both, because what they do piques both our curiosity and our fears, showing us at once imaginative potential and the fragility the mind.

here are a few examples of art by the mentally disordered, from various backgrounds and times. i've focused on visual arts, since they're a little easier to include here...

louis wain, professional illustrator, later diagnosed with schizophrenia
 


adolf wolfli, the original outsider artist, a mental patient who inspired dubuffet
 

MORE AFTER THE BREAK...




paul gosch, german artist associated with the expressionist movement, later consigned to an asylum and executed by the nazis



helen martins, a south african woman who spent years obsessively decorating her house and property, which is now preserved as "the owl house museum"



martin ramirez, originally from mexico, he spent much of his life institutionalised in california for paranoid schizophrenia



willem von genk, supposedly both autistic and schizophrenic whose art seemed to serve as a kind of therapy



 feel free to share any stories or experiences of outsider art, or any theories on art and madness...

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

making faces :: written in the stars [in lipstick]

are themed collections of things you like dangerous to you? once you've started down a rabbit hole, does it become a necessity to complete the set, lest you be left forever feeling like something is missing from your life? are you interested in lipsticks? then stay away from the astrology by bite collection/ series that is rolling out month by month throughout 2018.

the collection is pretty much exactly what you think it is: a lipstick a month inspired by the zodiac sign that begins in that month. a lot of people are interested in getting the one for their own sign. but that's not me. i'm interested in collecting the whole damn thing. it helps that bite's amuse bouche lipstick formula is one of the nicest on the market and that i've been weeding through my collection of lipsticks to find those that have started to "turn" [smell like crayons or grow dry] so that in theory, i have room to add more. [you have enough lipsticks for three people who wear lipsti…

making faces :: chanel's velvet realm

who doesn't love velvet? i know when i was younger, i used to, as george costanza longed to, "drape myself in velvet" and although that phase passed with time, i still think that the plush fabric has to be one of the high points of human achievement, up there with interior heating, advanced medicine and vodka. so to me, it's no surprise that one of the most hotly anticipated launches in the cosmetic world is chanel's new "rouge allure velvet" lipstick line, because even the name immediately makes me want to put it on my lips.

on a more concrete level, chanel describes these lipsticks as "luminous matte", which is sort of like the holy grail for lipstick lovers. we all want those intense, come-hither film noir lips, the sort where young men and sunlight are lost and never heard from again, but historically [including during the making of those films], applying a matte lipstick felt sort of like colouring in your lips with an old crayon that had…

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…