Outsider Art, a Way Toward Healing

Art by Travis A Louie
Art by Travis A Louie

The 6th Annual Outsider Art in the Hamptons exhibit is the quintessence of “unique.” It opened May 29 and runs through September 6, and the opening reception on June 4 was a smash hit. More than 150 people filled the decorated rooms of the Galerie BelAge in Westhampton Beach, including 20 of the 75+ artists from three different non-profit organizations who are featured in this show. Local artists include: Lance Corey, David Geyser, Garance, Rondi Casey, Phyllis Kriegel and Candyce Brokaw, who exclaims, “You’re not looking at still lifes here, you’re looking at the insides of people’s hearts, brains and souls.” [expand]

Candyce Brokaw, founder and director of Survivors Art Foundation, gave me a private tour of Galerie BelAge. She is also a talented self-taught visionary artist and curator of this exhibit. S.A.F. (Survivors Art Foundation) is a web-based gallery non-profit organization that Brokaw started in 1997 and currently hosts a wide array of artists. “Art helped me heal tremendously,” says Brokaw. “I wanted to de-stigmatize and bring forward an understanding of humanity.” S.A.F. serves artists who have “survived” something. The survivors have battled with mental and physical issues ranging from cancer and autism to sexual abuse. “Our mission is to exhibit and do outreach,” Brokaw shares.

Fountain Gallery is a non-profit organization in Manhattan that focuses specifically on mental illness. Pure Vision Arts is a non-profit that is part of The Shield Institute. They have a gallery and studio that caters to artists with autism and other developmental challenges. “Many of these artists cannot facilitate showing their artwork on their own.” Brokaw tells me, “They need the organizations to help them flourish and be successful.”

Artist Phil Demise Smith (also known as Howard Desnos), of A Gallery in Manhattan, shares his insights, “The art of art is a way of seeing. I see the light from the perspective of the tunnel.”

Outsider Art falls on the outskirts of society wherein self-taught artists create from within as opposed to depicting what is physically in front of them. Art Brut is a term that was coined during the turn of the century in Europe. Its negative connotation and association with what they then called “crazy people” caused artists to come up with the modern, positive phrase, “Art Singulier.” Visionary artwork depicts stream of consciousness.

The exhibit is raw, vibrant and emotional. After hearing some of the artists’ stories, I feel like I have gained access to a piece of their soul. Getting to know their artwork is like getting to know them. Their stories unfold within the paintings.

Lorrie Berman, a k a LB, an artist with Fountain Gallery, says, “I enjoy doing abstract artwork. That is how I see the lines on my paper. I started 10 years ago (when I started) art therapy and someone put a paintbrush in my hand…and said to paint out my emotions.”

Rondi Casey of S.A.F. states, “I’m doing this for 15 years. I make pedestal pieces and marionettes. I am a self-taught Outsider artist, using a lot of found objects.”

Lance Corey with S.A.F. reports, “I started painting when I was 8 years old. I paint abstract metaphors using recognizable objects. At 10 years old I was copying Modigliani and Roualt. My demons, my passions and my missions in life are apparent in my artwork…Art should be used as a weapon to challenge society and our cultural values.”

The artwork in the show ranges from $13 to $8,000 and includes everything from paintings to palm fronds (small origami-type figurines made out of palm).

Brokaw adds, “It’s positive for artists to see their work hanging and (even better to get feedback from the public), especially for artists who are healing.”

Don Gewelke, owner of Galerie BelAge, tells me, “This is truly a remarkable thing that Candyce is doing. It’s beyond selling art. She makes it her life to [help people]. They are getting recognized and [working toward healing].”

Brokaw’s spunk shines when she tells me, “I’m going to make everybody love art no matter what!”

Check out “The Un-Hamptons Outsider Art Exhibit: North Fork Edition” at The Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and Gallery, August 3 to 28, and The Go Fish Benefit at Galerie BelAge on Saturday, August 20, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Galerie BelAge is at 8 Moniebogue Lane, Westhampton Beach, 631-288-5082, www.galeriebelage.com. [/expand]


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