I discovered visionary outsider artist Madge Gill the other day when I read that she was the inspiration behind this Ikue Mori album.
The term “outsider art” has always been problematic for me because it just has to evoke circus folks, insane asylum inmates, punk rockers, and general weirdos. And while a lot of outsider artists are those things, I don’t think that identification should necessarily define their art. I guess I’d say that I prefer the term art brut in most cases.
That said, Madge Gill is a quintessential outsider artist. An eccentric English lady and prolific illustrator, Gill produced thousands of pen and ink drawings over the course of her life. She worked as a spiritual medium in her town, and would fall under a delirious sort of trance when she worked. According to Gill, her artistry was a result of her channeling Myrninerest, her personal spirit guide. She was said to turn down her one opportunity to show at a small exhibit, claiming that all of her drawings belonged to Myrninerest, and thus could not be sold.
In true outsider-artist-fashion, Gill grew more and more out of touch with reality and became a serious alcoholic in her later years. When she died at nearly 100 years old, she was virtually unknown as an artist. It wasn’t until 1968 when the Grosvenor Gallery showed a retrospective of her work that Gill finally received the recognition she deserved.
I wish I had a bedspread with her frantic patterns and lost women.