This weekend marks the 20th year of the annual Outsider Art Fair. For those unfamiliar, “outsider art” is a term coined by British art critic Roger Cardinal in the early ’70s used to describe the unconventional work made by untrained artists outside the mainstream art world strata. The category has come to include everything from folk to naive art, and the work of such cult figures as Henry Darger and Daniel Johnston.
Held at 7 W. 34th Street, the Outsider Art Fair starts with a special preview tonight, but begins in earnest tomorrow and runs through Sunday. More than 30 galleries and collectors will exhibit at the Fair, while several panels on varied topics will take place each day. Films from the Museum of Everything will be shown tomorrow, as will several short films on Sunday.
Among those exhibiting at the Fair will be Columbus’ Lindsey Gallery. While the gallery will be showing the work of several of its artists, the collection is highlighted by the work of Amber Groome. The self-taught Groome has been making dolls from polymer clay for years, but it took awhile before she was able to come to terms with the idea of parting with them and allowed the gallery to show her work. With the dolls often stuck with pins or seeming to be in some state of metamorphosis, her work has elements of the macabre. As Groome, who suffers from bipolar disorder, puts it, “They are symbolic in their afflictions. For me, my dolls are a testimony to the trauma and sorrow of being female and living with mental illness…. The dolls are adored and loathed by me at the same time.” The power of her art is unmistakable, with its rustic forms belying a complexity of emotion. When she returns from New York, Groome will have a joint show with Morris Jackson at the Lindsey Gallery.