Self-taught and outsider art is a worldwide phenomenon. America’s Heartland boasts some of the most distinct, recognized and collected artists in this genre – as well as some whose talents are not so recognized. This exhibition features art by venerable artists William Hawkins (1895-1990) and Elijah Pierce (1892-1984), plus works by lesser-known artists Mary Borkowski (1916-2008), Mary Frances Merrill (1920-1999), visionary Morris Ben Newman (1883-1980), David Pond (1940-2001), and stone carver Ernest “Popeye” Reed (1919-1985).
Inspired by accounts of the 1986 exhibition, 1 + 3 from Ohio, curator Kevin Cole culled several stellar Midwest public and private collections to produce an exhibition that reflects the rich, innovative and diverse work of these artists.Culprits, Innocents and Outsiders: Heartland Visions highlights artists including Borkowski, Merrill, Newman and Pond whose work has rarely, if ever, been seen in Illinois.
Whether notable or newly exhibited, the work of these artists reflects a creative spirit and expression that is very often moving and poignant; impressive and worldly, sometimes humorous, and always personal. Revealed are values such as: love, independence, self reliance and a strong work ethic, expressed through such subjects as family, religion, personal tragedy, current and political events, America’s heritage, and nature. Simply put, this art presents America’s Heartland experience without a filter. It is the raw presentation of individuals compelled to create using whatever means and materials necessary; and the independent spirit of a region exemplified by the artists who call it home.