Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CAT-alyse Creativity

I think it is safe to say that most artists are characters, some charmingly quirky, others uniquely eccentric, and then there are the select few who are not playing with a full pack of cards. We all joke about the crazy peeps we meet in the field, but this is of course, because we really aren't witnessing the worst of the mental disorders (which is no laughing matter). I am talking about the big ones that get you committed. It is hard to say if any of these creations from within the hospitals are going to count as fine art. There are those who believe that these unbridled expressions of Academically untainted creativity are the purest, truest forms of art (children's pictures also being included here). Then again, there is a difference between an artist, now committed, making work, versus the creations of a non-artist in an art therapy session. It boils down to what is art as a craft and what is art as a product made by a professional who combines mastered technique with creative genius. This is why you normally see mental patient art in outsider art galleries, with one noted exception of Louis Wain

Wain was a Victorian artist, never part of the mainstream British Academy, who specialized in comical cat illustrations. Then he became a schizophrenic and started his 'whooooooaa' cat drawings (like Mittens here, pictured above). Now he is highly collectible and finally counted as a fine artist. Wain was prolific; fabulous, really because I need one of these strangely psychedelic cats. It is really funny to think that these drawings are from the 1930's. They just seem so forward thinking in terms of aesthetic. I feel the same way about William Blake's work. I don't think they are ahead of their time exactly, just unfettered by temporal conventions. I would say that they fit in with more modern work only because it is now mainstream to be 'original' and un-Academic. But who knows, in another 20 years these kitties might go back to being dated misfits.

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