Augusta Savage Gallery exhibits “outsider artists”

By Christa Romano

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The Augusta Savage Gallery located on the University of Massachusetts campus opened an exhibit on Nov 2 with brightly colored abstract paintings titled “Inside the Outside.” The exhibit consisted of some 30 paintings by artists Jay Dickens, Arnold Nelson and Floyd Nelson. The exhibit will be on display in the gallery, located in the New Africa House until Nov. 20.

The “Inside the Outside” exhibition continues with the Augusta Savage Gallery’s mission to promote artistic works from a broad spectrum of cultures, according to Terry Jenoure, the gallery’s director.

Jenoure, who has run the gallery for over 20 years, said she discovered these artists while visiting a group art show in New Mexico. Out of the many artists on display, Jenoure said the three particularly caught her eye.

“I was immediately attracted to their work,” she said. “I found them to be very free and expressive and contemporary.”

The culture demonstrated in this exhibit is that of “outsider” artists, she said.

Jenour added that the three New Mexican artists are considered “outsider artists” because they have not received any formal art instruction. She said they have developed their own personal styles without preconceived notions or limitations, something she said resulted in truly expressional works of art.

Determined to bring some of this newfound art back to Massachusetts, Jenoure said that she researched and traveled to the disability services organization that sponsors the artists, each of whom had spent a number of years institutionalized for disabilities. Through her cooperation with the organization, Jenoure said the opportunity had given her the chance to learn more about them, and she was even able to watch them paint in the disability services studio.

“They all have spent time [institutionalized] but are now living independently, so they are supported by disability services,” Jenoure said. “These men go to a studio every day and they paint. It’s a service that these artists really responded to, expressing themselves through art.”

Jenoure said that she believes that the paintings help to portray a commonly misrepresented subculture within the United States.

“Their experiences in institutions really mark the way they see the world.” Jenoure said. “They have a lot to say about the way they’ve lived over the past 50 years.”

The watercolor, gouache, acrylics and oil paintings on display were painted with large strokes, vibrant colors and demonstrate great energy Jenoure said. Those that have already visited the exhibit wrote comments in the guest book, which included remarks acknowledging these colors and unique textures of the work.

The Augusta Savage Gallery selects different exhibits for their aesthetic integrity and ability to enlighten the viewer on social issues.

“There are so many different ways that people identify themselves and live in the world,” Jenoure said. “And that’s part of what we do here: we display a range of ethnic and cultural differences through art.”

“Inside the Outside” is the last exhibit for the Augusta Savage Gallery this semester. All of the paintings on display are for sale and range in price from $55-$160. This free public exhibit is entirely non-profit, and all of the proceeds go directly to the artists and to other disability services.

Christa Romano can be reached at [email protected]