"The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of matter and of the stars, but that within that prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness." Andre Malraux

27 October, 2010

Madge Gill

A planned tour of the Chelsea galleries on Sunday was waylaid by the annoying fact of their all being closed. Now that I think of it, I guess they're always closed on Sundays, but that fact refuses to stick in my mind -- maybe because it makes absolutely no sense. I only walked down one street & up another to confirm that, yes, they were all closed, & I must have passed 2 dozen people easily, also peeking in windows & looking about themselves in confusion. Why would businesses be closed on one of the 2 main days people are able to go visit them? Surely it must be for religious reasons.

Anyhoo, me & my friendly neighborhood librarian ended up taking a detour up to 53rd Street to check out the American Folk Art Museum. It's a destination I've been meaning to check out for years, so I couldn't stay too mad at the galleries for being closed (on a prime visiting day, it bears repeating) or myself for forgetting this idiotic factoid. Saw a lot of stuff worth checking out, but the one person who really piqued my interest was Madge Gill.

Gill (1882-1961), like many artists in the museum's collection, is an "outsider artist". In its modern usage, outsider art isn't my favorite schtick, but I think it's debatable whether Madge really qualified, being neither clinically insane nor completely outside the art establishment (she had gallery shows within her lifetime). She has a pretty sad biography, though, & basically all of her drawings were created within a trance-like state, with a degree of prolificacy that sounds downright disturbing, until she eventually drank herself to death.

But you can't argue with results, I always say. I find her work incredibly rich & compelling. Her focus is entirely in 2 dimensions -- sometimes solitary figures on a blank page, but more often the entire surface is filled with shapes and marks, creating an almost accidental dynamic composition. Check out some of her images while I go get "galleries closed Sundays" tattooed on my forearm.

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