|This year the curators of the Art Brut special show, Susanne
Zander and Claudia Dichter, have decided to approach the subject from a
different angle - as the show's title, A Different Eye (Ein anderer Blick),indicates. In the words of the curators:|
This special show presents a representative selection of work by fifteen
women artists and provides for the first time a comparative overview of
Outsider Art by women artists. While the work of individual artists has
previously been exhibited in one-woman or special-theme shows, an overview
of their work in this format has never before been staged. Significantly,
their work is in some ways strikingly different from that of their male
Women artists favour 'pretty' themes
Male artists in Art Brut tend to be constructors of utopian machinery and
complex architecture, visionaries developing highly original universes or
taboo breakers visualizing their sexual obsessions. Women artists tend to
concentrate almost exclusively on peaceful, fairy-story, 'pretty' themes.
They paint flowers and portraits, labyrinthine fantasies peopled with
figures and floral elements. They embroider, sew and use textile materials
to develop original artistic vocabularies outside the confines of
conventional applied art. But, characteristically for Outsider Art, each
artist constructs her own artistic universe and pursues it obsessively and
endlessly over years and even decades.
Jean Dubuffet regarded Aloïse Corbaz (1886 - 1964) as the female counterpart
of Adolf Wölfli, a leading male Art Brut artist. Corbaz pictured a luxuriant
theatrical world permeated with subtle eroticism. She peopled her stage with
society beauties, sirens and sphinxes, queens and generals. Her gouaches and
crayon drawings feature floating hair, naked breasts, uniforms, flowers,
stars and horned beasts. She used any material to hand and sewed sheets of
paper together to construct metre-long supports and mixed toothpaste and
flower petals into her paints.
Lee Godie's photoautomat self portraits
Lee Godie (1908 - 1994), who spent much of her life homeless and living on
the streets of Chicago, described herself as a "French Impressionist". At
the age of 60 she began to sell her own figurative works in front of the
main entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago - self portraits, images of
birds and foliage, elegant women and attractive men. Godie used
photoautomats to produce theatrical self portraits in which she is garishly
made-up, with schoolgirl's braids, tousled hair and wearing a thick fur
jacket. Sometimes she coloured the shots by hand afterwards.
Judith Scott (b. 1943), a deaf mute, fashioned life-size sculptures out of
yarn, thread and bits of material. She wrapped up, tied together and hid all
kinds of everyday objects like keys, newspapers, bags and plates in her
objects. They envelop an undiscovered interior like a cocoon, outwardly
appearing as pure, sculptural form.
An erotic universe in poetry and embroidery
Helga Sophia Götze (b. 1922) describes herself as a "primal taboo-breaker".
In her poems and embroidery she develops an erotic universe by conjuring up
the power of sexuality in endless variation.
Three of the artists - Madge Gill (1882 - 1961), Margarethe Held (1894 -
1981) and Jeanne Tripier (1869 - 1944) are often described as "mediums".
That is to say, their work emerged under the pressure of perceived exogenous
influences. Margarethe Held, for example, began to make drawings under the
guidance of "the God Shiva, the God of the Indians and the Mongols". She
completed hundreds of pencil and crayon drawings of the dead, of ghosts,
deities, primeval animals and runes and wrote about voyages to Jupiter and
other planets. Jeanne Tripier began to paint, write and embroider at the age
of 58, declaring she was "committed to the task of actualizing her flowing,
spiritual, celestial body". Madge Gill also attributed the start of her
creative career to supernatural stimuli, when at the age of 37 a voice
suddenly ordered her to start embroidering, writing and painting. Her
filigree watercolours vary enormously in size - from postcard size to large
pieces on calico eleven metres in length.
Exhibits from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day
The special show A Different Eye exhibits works dating from the beginning of
the 20th century to the present day. They were executed in very different
contexts. Some of the artists were patients in psychiatric hospitals and
others, like Lee Godie and Helga Sophia Götze, lived at the very edge of
conventional society. But biographical background played no role in the
choice of exhibits, artistic quality was the sole criterion.