Ozark Outsiders was curated by Patricia Watts for the Drury University Pool Art Center Gallery in Springfield, Missouri and was on display October 7th through October 28th, 2016. Assistant curator, Kate Tuthill.

Ozark Outsiders

Curators statement: Patricia Watts

There are several characteristics, traits, and conditions to consider when deciding if an artist is truly an outsider artist. The term can be off putting to many artists and some scholars who find it to be too broad. However, if we consider the artists motivations and skill set, and the social setting in which the art is made, we can safely decide: if they are either formally trained or self-taught; if they are more motivated by recognition or conversely have less interest in showing or selling their work; and, one of the more difficult ways to assess this work is to decide on the authenticity of expression, meaning is their work a result of a personal vision created outside the influences of the greater art world.

This begs the question, can a pure form of creativity be taught in art schools? Is a naive approach more pure than having the technical skills and access to art making materials like that of a trained artist? For the purposes of this exhibition the term Outsider reflects the artists desire or limitations in making their art outside the confines of the art world, whether they had formal training or not; and, whether for reasons of mental health, physical disabilities, or because they simply like to use the visual arts as a medium of expression, they are ultimately making art for their own joy or means of communication.

The Greater Ozarks Region has a rich history of pioneering, religious people who had to make due with very little throughout their lives, and throughout several generations. This legacy has provided a unique climate for fostering a love of combining creative skills with a spiritual calling or higher purpose in life. Without immediate gratification from either selling their work or receiving art world recognition, these artists have attained satisfaction by making work for themselves rather than the art-world-at-large.

Special thanks goes to the lenders: Carl Hammer Gallery, Hirschl and Adler Gallery, Group Living, Tim Hawley, Lucille Stoll, William Brandon Bowman, Dale Crutcher, La Faun Lea, Missouri State University-Springfield, Dr. Tim Kaufmann, M2 Gallery and Jann and Russ Holland. And, a very special thanks to Kate Tuthill, Assistant Curator.
James Edward Deeds, Jr. (1908-1987) was raised in Christian County and was confined at the Missouri State Hospital No. 3 in Nevada for most of his life. While there, he made hundreds of drawings. His “electric pencil drawings” were first shown in 2014 at Art Inspired in Springfield, where artists with disabilities explore their creativity through art activities.

Ralph Doss Lanning (1916-2009) was born and raised in Greene County, and also is well known in the local art community. His outdoor sculpture garden of cement and carved limestone figures was previously located in a roadside setting along Highway 70 in Republic.

Sammy Landers (born 1957) lives in a group home in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he has resided since the early 1980s. He is autistic and a self-taught artist who uses his art as a means of visual expression to communicate daily life events. He draws human figures, plants, and buildings using markers, pens, and crayons on paper.

Robert E. Smith (1927-2010) lived in Springfield for 40 years and is well known to the regional art community for his childlike mappings painted on canvas, often accompanied with a letter or and/or a cassette tape. His work is portrayed in a large mural downtown at the corner of Campbell and Walnut streets. 

Ed Stilley (born 1930) is a preacher from Hogscald Hollow in northwest Arkansas. In his mid-50s, he says he was told by God to make guitars from scrap wood and give them away for free to children. By 2005, he had crafted more than 200 instruments with Biblical verses carved and painted on them. Springfield photographer Tim Hawley recently published a book on Stilley titled Gifted, which helped put the artist on the “outsider” map.

Lucille Stoll (born 1922) is one of three included artists still living. Born at home in Christian County, she has lived off of Highway Z all of her adult life, painting landscapes in oils. After a stroke at age 73, she returned exclusively to her childhood expression of making drawings with pencil on paper. She is self-taught and has not previously shown her work in an academic art venue. 

Tim West (1938-2012) from Winslow, Arkansas, is the only artist in the exhibition who was formally trained, but due to family problems and his desire to live “off the grid” in the woods, his art became more informed by visions of his mental states rather than his exposure to an arts education. 
Joseph Elmer Yoakum (1889-1972) grew up in Ash Grove and made hundreds of animated landscape drawings after an emotional breakdown while living near Chicago in the 1960s. Yoakum has yet to be given his due locally, even though he was featured in a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City one month prior to his death.