Its creative ranks include recluses, the insane and former prison inmates, but "Outsider Art" is hardly the exclusive domain of social misfits.
A tour through the American Museum of Folk Art or any number of galleries specializing in what is also known as "self-taught art" exposes viewers to a rich field of artists - including a notable number of Jewish painters - who, while untrained, display a talent for visual expression appreciated by connoisseurs and common folk alike.
The Jewish Folk Gallery is a modest space that can barely contain the artistic output of the emigre artists and artisans who rely on it as a showplace for their work.
The walls and the shelves of the 300-square-foot gallery - formerly the first-floor library at Bnai Zion House - overflow with scenes of shtetl life and people at prayer, landscapes of Russia and Israel, engraved copper plaques and carved wooden ritual objects. There is just enough room for a tea-service cart to fit behind the door.
When history touched Yonia Fain's life, it hit with gale force. For 30 years he was "dragged by the storm of events over half a world," the Brooklyn-based painter and Yiddish poet once wrote.
Between 1923 - when a 9-year-old Fain and his family fled Bolshevik Russia, and 1953 - when he settled in New York City - Fain outran Nazi troops in Poland, was imprisoned by the Soviets, escaped to Japan, was deported to China and eventually made his way to safety and artistic success in Mexico.
Most visitors to a new Chagall exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan likely will find more interest in the Velcro animals on display than in Vitebsk, the artist’s beloved hometown. But while they putter and play among the exhibits that make up “Chagall for Children,” young audiences are getting a foundation in art appreciation, the exhibition’s organizers say.
Museum Mile — the stretch of Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 104th — offers an intriguing paradox this fall. The Jewish Museum, at the corner of 92nd Street, is presenting a retrospective of works by a Jewish painter who eschewed Jewish imagery in his embrace of the universal. A few blocks south, the National Academy of Design exhibits the work of a painter who rejected Judaism, but uses explicitly Jewish symbols as expressions of spiritual transcendence.
It’s not often that one visits a contemporary art installation, opens up the comment book, and reads the following: “First of all, I am a broken vessel, a victim of abuse, and I am in the process of healing.” Or: “Today, June 8, makes 7 years since I lost my wife.” Other entries include promises to help woman held in sexual bondage, or work with local schools to improve the quality of education.
Turn on your television and run the dial. If you have cable, you will find Fox 5, FX, Fox Sports World, Fox News Channel, Fox Movies, Turner Classic Movies, Turner Broadcasting System, the Turner-owned CNN, f/CNN and CNN/SI. One of three daily newspapers in New York is owned by the same company that owns the Fox networks and the Fox movie studio.
All of the magazines published by AOL/TimeWarner, the Warner Brothers studio, and TimeWarner cable, the local carrier for all those TV channels, are owned by a single corporation, which also owns the various Turner networks.