Cassidy Conway

Cassidy Conway

Our Insider Review of the Outsider Art Fair 2016

Before the blizzard hit New York City last week, The Arts Company’s creative consultant, Cassidy Conway, had the chance to make it to the Outsider Art Fair 2016 at the Metropolitan Pavilion.  Follow along as she highlights some of her favorite moments with pictures and comments below. 


*Update: The news broke that Thornton Dial had died on Monday, January 25, 2016, at his home in McCalla, just southeast of Birmingham, at the age of 87. He will be greatly missed. May his legacy live on in the work and lives of those influenced by his bold creative spirit.  



As soon as I walked into the fair, my eyes were welcomed by the work of artist (and recent friend) Lonnie Holley.  In case you didn’t know, last summer The Arts Company actually showed a few of Lonnie’s pieces in conjunction with the unveiling of his first large-scale public sculpture for the William Edmondson Park in Nashville, TN.  It felt a little bit like home as I envisioned Lonnie Holley standing there himself with arms opened wide welcoming guests as they walked in.  Immediately, I could tell this would be a unique art experience.   

Thornton Dial led me on as his work seemed to be presented as a badge of credibility for many exhibitors.  I have grown very fond of Dial since meeting him last year and handling his work at The Arts Company.  Anne had represented him in Nashville for a number of years and I remember hearing stories of past exhibitions presenting the self-taught Alabama artist’s work alongside other important (yet unknown at the time) “outsiders" like the Gee’s Bend Quilters.  How important these exhibitions were and still are for the arts community in Nashville because 10 of Thornton Dial’s works now call the Metropolitan Museum home along with 57 more by contemporary African American artists from the Southern United States.  It truly is an exciting time for outsider artists and the galleries, dealers and collectors who have believed in the power of their work since the beginning.  What a breath of fresh air in New York City!

The diversity in style, form and color at each booth is overwhelming as rules of influence and art movements do not apply to the one-of-a-kind pieces.  Each collection presented it's own interesting array of organized chaos and I could not get enough of it.  I was drawn to Joshua Lowenfels' booth initially because of his Thornton Dial and Mose Tolliver pieces, but then I ended up staying much longer because of a great conversation I was having with the New York City collector/dealer.  He has been in the art business for over 20 years and collects everything from folk art to fetishes.  I particularly liked his paintings by C Jack. When I asked him what spurred his interest in becoming such a collector, he stated, "I simply do it for the love of it."

“A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand” by Howard Finster (on the left)

“A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand” by Howard Finster (on the left)

 

As I turned a corner, a work by Howard Finster caught my eye. His pieces were some of the first outsider artwork I ever experienced at The Arts Company as he and Anne were good friends and she had quite the collection from her trips to visit him in Georgia. 

 
Had the pleasure of meeting Carl Hammer of  Carl Hammer Gallery  in Chicago, IL.  Along with some great work by Henry Darger, he had a wonderful Temptation piece by folk artist Edgar Tolson in the middle of the booth.

Had the pleasure of meeting Carl Hammer of Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago, IL.  Along with some great work by Henry Darger, he had a wonderful Temptation piece by folk artist Edgar Tolson in the middle of the booth.

I  ncredible cigar band collaged musical instruments by Cuban-American artist Felipe Jesus Consalvos presented by   Fleisher Ollman  . 

Incredible cigar band collaged musical instruments by Cuban-American artist Felipe Jesus Consalvos presented by Fleisher Ollman

Said "  Hello"   to fellow Tennessean and friend of The Arts Company, Angela Usrey, from   Tanner Hill Gallery   in Chattanooga. I admired her solo exhibition of drawings by Dallas based artist, Willie Young.

Said "Hello" to fellow Tennessean and friend of The Arts Company, Angela Usrey, from Tanner Hill Gallery in Chattanooga. I admired her solo exhibition of drawings by Dallas based artist, Willie Young.

Ended the night browsing through my newly prized   Outsider Art Sourcebook   published by Raw Vision. Surprisingly, it is the “ only international guide to the world of Outsider Art and Folk Art." 

Ended the night browsing through my newly prized Outsider Art Sourcebook published by Raw Vision. Surprisingly, it is the “only international guide to the world of Outsider Art and Folk Art." 

 

Upon leaving, I made sure to stop by Raw Vision Magazine booth.  I have admired their magazine from afar as they are the "world's only international journal of outsider art." As I was flipping through some of their older issues on display, I struck up a conversation with an extremely kind British man standing nearby. A few minutes had passed when I finally realized that he was, in fact, the founder John Maizels himself!  We continued to have a great time discussing the origins of the magazine which started simply as the hobby of a teacher who wanted to create a forum for self-taught artists.  He believed in the work so much that his passion bled through and others began to notice.  Since then, he works for the magazine full-time and visits New York for the Outsider Art Fair every year. 

Experiences such as these are incredible reminders that the art world is not just for the wealthy collector or sophisticated dealer.  In fact, the term “outsider” seems to help identify those doing it for the love of it.  Whether that be the artist, collector, dealer or gallery, the “outsiders” at this fair exude a certain type of energy, passion and even obsession that differs from many of those considered to be “insiders” or part of the traditional mainstream art crowd.   

I am grateful for the exposure I have had to the outsider art community; For I know that if it had not for my tenure at The Arts Company in Nashville—where outsider/folk art has been presented for the last 20 years—I would probably would have never understood any of it.  However, education and exposure has taught me to see outsider art for what it truly is, incredibly creative and honest representations of human experiences. In other words, atypical artists creating art for the love of it.

Cassidy Conway


Cassidy Conway currently lives in New York City and is The Arts Company's Creative Consultant.

Cassidy Conway

9 Reasons Not To Miss the First Saturday Art Crawl in Downtown Nashville

1. It happens at the same time every month, (rain or shine!):

In case you didn’t pick up on “First Saturday,” it happens every single month from 6-9pm no matter what. (Unless there is a crazy storm or the world ends an hour before)  In other words, you can’t use the excuse that you don’t know when it happens anymore.

2. It’s different every time 

Most galleries change out exhibitions every month, with occasional pop-up galleries or new spaces added to the list.  So if you’re wondering if it will all be the same as last month, think again. 

3. A variety of styles and approaches to art 

The galleries on 5th Avenue of the Arts include some of Nashville’s finest for innovative and contemporary visual art.  With rosters consisting of nationally and internationally recognized artists, you are guaranteed to see some quality work. Plus, the artists are often present during exhibition openings so you can finally ask them those burning philosophical artistic questions like, “How did you do this?”

4. It’s absolutely FREE

There is no admission fee at any participating gallery during the art crawl.  That’s over 20 art venues open for business without your needing to pay a dime, unless you buy a piece of art, of course. 

5. You can enjoy live music

Yes, even at the art crawl one can enjoy live music from some of Music City’s finest musicians. Every month (if the weather permits ) Nashville Downtown Partnership sets up two performance platforms on 5th Avenue of the Arts N. Feel free to sing or dance along. 

6. There’s complimentary wine or other beverages for guests

Yes, you heard me correctly. Many of the galleries along Fifth Avenue of the Arts serve wine (and occasionally beer) for absolutely no cost! Just make sure you leave a little tip for the people behind the table having to pour all those glasses, and plan to bring your I.D. with you if you do plan to join us for a glass of complimentary wine.

7. There’s a free shuttle

Not a huge fan of walking? Don’t worry. Gray Line Tennessee now provides a free shuttle for you to hop on and off at specified locations.  (Click here for shuttle map) Plus, if you don’t want to fight traffic, just park near one of the stops and hop on to get to the rest of the galleries! 

8. Celebrity spotting

With Nashville being in the spotlight so much recently, it only makes sense that celebrities are somewhere nearby in the crowd.  You never know, because Nashville is known for celebrities who blend in to the community.

9.  There’s plenty to do after the art crawl ends

Just because the galleries close at 9 pm doesn’t mean you have to go home… you’re in Downtown Nashville on a Saturday night, for crying out loud! If you're looking for a bite to eat or somewhere fun to go, just walk a couple blocks down to Printer’s Alley or Historic Broadway and you’ll be set.  

All you need to do is grab friends,  bring a date,  or come by yourself to the First Saturday Art Crawl Downtown.  This is a distinct Nashville Experience for Nashvillians and guests, going on now for some nine years on First Saturdays of every month.

 

(This post was written by Cassidy Conway, The Arts Company's Creative Consultant)