The New York art world is an exclusive circle—you have to schmooze, suck-up and get institutionally sanctioned to be "in." But what's "in," anyway? And, come to think of it, what's "out"?
Fountain Gallery, displaying and selling the creations of artists living and working with mental illnesses since 2000, thrusts these questions into the collective consciousness. The current exhibit Outsider?—made up of some 60 works by four artists: Davida Adedjouma, Mercedes Kelly, Keith Pavia and the late Dick Lubinsky—is a defiant rejection of the notion of insider art. The works themselves were conceived and created by those coping with mental illness—those who society, and the art world, so casually cast aside as "outsiders." Sue Stoffel, the exhibit organizer and art historian/
museum specialist, wants to challenge the way viewers approach art: "Can and how does mental
illness define the creative process? If we know beforehand that this is work by people with mental illness, does that change our perception of it?"
Her question is powerful. I'll add one of my own: Have you ever met a career artist who doesn't exhibit at least a handful of symptoms straight out of the DSM? Beauty is beauty, art is art, and no mind is perfect. Feel like you're on the outside looking in? You're not alone.