Publication Date

April 2017

Advisor(s)

Clare Rogan

Major

College of Letters

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

The artwork of Purvis Young, Lonnie Holley, and Thornton Dial has been labeled folk, outsider, vernacular, and self-taught, amongst other terms. The artists and their works have been subjected to methods of categorization constructed by a growing market for art created by individuals excluded from historically mainstream culture. This thesis attempts to divorce these artists from the vast and vague community and institution of “Outsider Art.” Rather, looking at these three artists, highlighting specific works, and observing the particulars of their biographies will develop a more precise method of comparison. The formal characteristics of their art and their means of creation reveal the similarities between their representations of their separate, yet similar identities, beyond simply that of the “Outsider.” It also highlights their construction of individual identities through their personal expression of their specific histories and biographies. These histories and biographies are inherently associated with one another by way of a shared experience, as all three are black men, lack formal education, and come from the segregated south.

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