Introduction

Ted Degener shines a spotlight on art environment makers in At Home with Artists

Ted Degener shines a spotlight on art environment makers in At Home with Artists

Charlie Stagg sits inside one of his bottle and concrete constructions in Vidor, Texas
Ted Degener (American, b. 1948). Charlie Stagg sits inside one of his bottle and concrete constructions in Vidor, Texas, 1999. Archival pigment print. Photo courtesy Ted Degener

Opening reception: Jan. 19, 2023, 5–8 p.m.
Exhibition on view: Jan. 19–Sep. 4, 2023

Jan. 12, 2023—CHICAGO—Ted Degener: At Home with Artists, the photographer’s first major exhibition, showcases portraits and videos of makers of art environments within and among their grand works of art. The exhibition opens at Intuit on Thursday, Jan. 19, with an evening reception free to the public.

For more than five decades, Ted Degener has traveled across the United States in search of encounters with the makers of art environments—artists who transformed personal spaces like homes, gardens and studios into continually evolving, site-specific and life-encompassing works of art. His fascination with art environments started in 1970 when he learned about Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in Los Angeles, making the site the destination of his first cross-country road trip in pursuit of art. Since then, Degener has photographed more than 400 artists in and with their work, in addition to roadside attractions, eccentric festivals and other American cultural activities. He continues to travel to and photograph art environments, contributing photos of his adventures to Raw Vision magazine.

Degener’s photographs go beyond documentation of art environments, though some serve as remnants of sites long disassembled, to capture the artist inhabiting their work. Often, art environments are the result of a lifetime of love and labor, and Degener’s portraits capture the maker’s dynamisms, their senses of joy and pride in sharing their creations with others.

“Degener’s portraits are not just stunning photos in their own right; they also reveal the inextricable link between makers and their art environments,” stated Annalise Flynn, curator of the exhibition and manager of SPACES Archives. “My hope is that this collection of images illustrates the scope of these creative spaces as well as the depth of Degener’s dedication to these artists and their work.”

Audiences will be able to engage with Degener’s photographs in the museum’s front gallery as well as with his “home videos” in the performance space, where they can sit in a cozy setting and choose from seven short films of visits with artists Silvio Barile, Loy Bowlin, L.V. Hull, Leonard Knight and Dr. Charles Smith. Accompanying this selection of more than 30 portraits—both photos and videos—by Degener are works of art by L.V. Hull, Leonard Knight and Dr. Charles Smith. These intimate objects are representative of their makers’ art environments and serve as tangible points of entry into the sites Degener captured on film.

“Degener captures the personalities of both the makers and the sites in his work,” said Debra Kerr, president and CEO at Intuit. “There’s a liveliness that runs throughout the exhibition, embodied in the objects from art environments and reflected in Degener’s portraits and videos.”

“We are thrilled to have created this exhibition in partnership with Intuit, an institution committed to thoughtful engagement with vernacular creativity,” shared Flynn.

The exhibition Ted Degener: At Home with Artists opens to the public with a free opening reception on Thursday, Jan. 19, 5–8 p.m. Intuit will host accompanying public programs throughout the exhibition’s run, which concludes on Labor Day, Sep. 4, 2023.

ABOUT THE CURATOR

Annalise Flynn is an independent art historian and curator based in Sheboygan, Wis. She manages SPACES Archives (Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments)—the world’s largest repository of archival documentation related to art environments—on behalf of the Kohler Foundation in Kohler, Wis.

ABOUT INTUIT

Founded in 1991, Intuit is a premier museum of outsider and self-taught art, defined as work created by artists who faced marginalization, overcame personal odds to make their artwork, or who did not, or sometimes could not, follow a traditional path of art making, often using materials at hand to realize their artistic vision. By presenting a diversity of artistic voices, Intuit builds a bridge from art to audiences. The museum’s mission—to celebrate the power of outsider art—is grounded in the ethos that powerful art can be found in unexpected places and made by unexpected creators.

Intuit is open 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and by appointment on Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information, please visit Plan Your Visit.