Still out of the cave. Recently I’ve been looking at outsider art, and have noticed that most of the artists to whom space and thought (at least online) have been given are — no big surprise — male. So I searched for female outsider artists, and found Aloise Corbaz, a Swiss woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1918 and committed to a mental hospital, where she remained for the rest of her life.
Unlike the majority of those labelled “outsider artists”, she was well educated. Her work, which she began in secret around 1920 (most of her early output was destroyed), portrays a protean, unlimited world in which her own image is prominent, in the midst of suitors, historical figures, and characters from opera; flowers abound, colours are brilliant, and the general mood seems to be one of untrammelled love, play, indulgence and delight — in a realm where everyone has big blank blue eyes, as if to signify that they are immortals, or ideational rather than corporeal beings (but one would have to ask Aloise). Sometimes the gaiety seems to take on a sinisterly desperate, Weimar cabaret sort of tone — but it’s hard to be sure whether the figures’ expressions are meant to appear crazed or simply passionate.
Cloisonné de théâtre, 1951, coloured pencil, oil pastel and thread on paper.
Photo: Philip Bernard. Source: Raw Vision
waterloo / marie stuart / werther / tosca
Source: Random Index — larger image there
(Valkyrie as Madonna?)
Her doctor, Jacqueline Porret-Forel, who along with hospital director Hans Steck, took an interest in her work, wrote:
“The world as recreated by Aloïse is cosmic and insubstantial, free of physical contingencies, in opposition to the old natural world she knew before her ‘death,’ that is before her illness. It is a supernatural world, theater of the Universe, thronged with immutable, hieratic actors whose deeds and feelings are expressed by the tiny hieroglyphic figures around them. Furthermore, their very essence is uncertain. They may be themselves and yet simultaneously represent something else. A woman may be herself and at the same time her icon … or a living lantern … or an allegory.”
The part following “furthermore” rang a solipsistic bell for me, as it could be a description of what goes on in my head. To me, it makes perfect sense that a person (certainly a person in art or fiction, and perhaps a person in everything but the bodily sense too) could be themselves, an icon, an allegory, and a living lantern. That they could be seems much more likely than that they couldn’t be.
Sources: Ubuweb (also has images — if the link doesn’t show up, it’s at the bottom left of the picture), Wikipedia, Japan Times, Raw Vision, Random Index (go to main page for vintage tattoos, strange and beautiful art, and just plain strange art).