(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘outsider art

“The vitality of the ordinary members of society is dependent on its Outsiders. Many Outsiders unify themselves, realize themselves as poets or saints.”*…



Gertrude Morgan

Sister Gertrude Morgan in her Everlasting Gospel Revelation Mission; some of her work, hanging behind her.  New Orleans, Louisiana, 1974


In a new book, Walks to the Paradise Garden, author Jonathan Williams, editor Phillip March Jones, and photographer Roger Manley gather interviews and encounters with artists they met along their road trips through the American South in the 1970s. Some of the artists they spoke with, like Sister Gertrude Morgan, would eventually be discovered by the art-world establishment, while others they met—like former mechanic Vernon Lee Burwell—continued to labor in obscurity.

Along with a deep sense of religious wonder, there is a sense of urgency to the work featured in Walks to the Paradise Garden, a compulsion to make more and more of it until it covered the walls of their homes, crowded the hallways, and spilled onto the front lawn. As Williams writes in the introduction to the book, “We’re talking about a South that is both celestial and chthonian,” pertaining to both heaven and hell. “They are often one and the same.”…

Outsider artists and their work: “Finding Jesus on the Front Yard.”

* Colin Wilson, The Outsider


As we see through different eyes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1886 that a different kind of “outsider” made its first appearance: Coca-Cola was first sold to the public at the soda fountain in Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was formulated by pharmacist John Stith Pemberton, who mixed it in a 30-gallon brass kettle hung over a backyard fire.  Pemberton’s recipe, which survived in use until 1905, was marketed as a “brain and nerve tonic,” and contained extracts of cocaine and (caffeine-rich) kola nut. The name, using two C’s from its ingredients, was suggested by his bookkeeper Frank Robinson, whose excellent penmanship provided the famous scripted  “Coca-Cola” logo.

Pemberton’s Palace


Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 8, 2019 at 1:01 am

Outside in…


Outsider Art— the sort of work exemplified by Henry Darger, with whom we’ve visited before— is making it’s way into the mainstream.  So artists like Charles Dellschau (1830-1923), one of whose watercolors is pictured above, are being adopted by the Academy.  But while the respect is better late than never, it does nothing to penetrate the exotic puzzles at the heart of Dellschau’s work…

His story is one shrouded in mystery, almost lost forever, intertwined with secret societies, hidden codes, otherworldly theories and seemingly impossible inventions before his time. Unseen for decades and salvaged by a junk dealer in the 1960s from a trash heap outside a house in Texas, his entire body of work would later go on to marvel the intellectual world. But during his lifetime, Charles Dellschau had only been known as the grouchy local butcher.

In 1969, used furniture dealer Fred Washington bought 12 large discarded notebooks  from a garbage collector, where they found a new home in his warehouse under a pile of dusty carpets. In 1969, art history student, Mary Jane Victor, was scouring through his bazaar of castaways when she came upon the mysterious works of a certain Charles Dellschau. Inside the scrapbooks she discovered a remarkable collection of strange watercolours and collage pieces. More than 2,500 intricate drawings of flying machines alongside cryptic newspaper clippings filled the pages, crudely sewn together with shoelaces and thread…

He had arrived in the United States at 25 years old from Hamburg in 1853 and documents show he lived in both California and Texas with his family, working as a butcher. After his retirement in 1899, he took to filling his days by filling notebooks with a visual journal of his youth. He called the first three books, Recollections and recounts a secret society of flight enthusiasts which met in California in the mid-19th century called the ‘Sonora Aero Club’.

The Wright Brothers wouldn’t even make their famous first flight until 1903, but Dellschau draws dapperly-dressed men piloting brightly-coloured airships and helicopters with revolving generators and retractable landing gear. No records have ever been found of the Sonora Aero Club but Dellschau’s artworks hide a secret coded story. Whatever it was that he had to say was apparently too private even for his own notebooks and even today, much of the mystery has yet to be revealed…

As for how they ended up in a trash heap in the 1960s? The books had been hiding in Charles Dellschau’s attic where he worked for many years before his death. In the 1960s, the husband of Dellschau’s step-daughter, Anton Stelzig was living in the home during the 1960s with his two aging sisters and a nurse hired to care for them, when the fire department assessed that the house was a hazard and ordered that it be cleared of debris. The nurse was given the task of “cleaning-up”. Her way of doing things resulted in many of the family’s treasures being thrown out onto the street, including Dellschau’s books. Anton’s grandson Leo, painfully recalls the nurse saying, “I took care of that mess and cleaned it all up.” Some of Dellschau’s work is still believed to be missing, possibly lost forever…

Read this fascinating story– see more examples of Dellschau’s work and find more links to explore– at Messy Nessy Chic.


As we resolve to keep our dream journals in color, we might send challenging birthday greetings to Georges Albert Maurice Victor Bataille; he was born on this date in 1897.  A “public intellectual” who worked in literature, anthropology, philosophy, economics, sociology, and art history, Bataille became known as the “metaphysician of evil.”  An early fellow-traveler of the Surrealists, he co-founded the College of Sociology, a group of lapsed Surrealists that met to discuss and debate sovereignty, transgression, and the obscene.

Bataille founded several other groups and journals; and while he was scorned by Sartre as a “mystic,” he had an important influence on thinkers like Foucault, Lacan, and Baudrillard.  Indeed, Bataille’s thinking on Hegel and Nietzsche was foundational in Jacques Derrida’s development of Deconstructionism.




Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 10, 2013 at 1:01 am

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