Published in conjunction with a 2005 exhibition of the same name at the Palmer Museum of Art, Wos up man? features numerous works from Joseph and Janet Shein’s important collection of self-taught (or “outsider”) art. Although many of the artists represented—William Hawkins, Thornton Dial Sr., Clementine Hunter, Howard Finster, and Sam Doyle—have acquired renown as the interest in outsider art has grown, such figures as George C. Briscoe, Chris Clark, C. W. Conner, and Chris Donnelly are little known and are here receiving their first art-historical consideration.
The term “outsider art” refers to works made by individuals who have had no training in the arts and, more often than not, live on the margins of society but are nonetheless creative. Indeed, as Wos up man? shows, they are remarkably expressive and inventive. Their art ranges from walking sticks and quilts to paintings and sculptures and incorporates materials that run the gamut from house paint and earth pigments to glitter and tin. Wos up man? not only provides photographs of more than 75 objects from the Shein collection but also places them in the wider context of subgenres like southern black art, visionary art, prison art, and European art brut. An essay by Joyce Henri Robinson and catalogue entries by Janalee Emmer and Gabriella Szalay enable readers to explore an extensive private collection of outsider art. Wos up man? also calls attention to the growing significance attached to outsider art and, ultimately, asks if “outside” may now be “in.”