University of Delaware

Outsider art

UD doctoral student collaborates on Philadelphia exhibition


10:13 a.m., April 22, 2013--Cara Zimmerman, who earned her master's degree in art history at the University of Delaware in 2009 and now is pursing a doctorate, collaborated in creating a show described by The New York Times as "an exhilarating exhibition accompanied by an exceptional catalog."

Zimmerman, who is executive director of the Foundation for Self-Taught Artists in Philadelphia, worked with curator Ann Percy at the museum to develop "Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection." The exhibition, which runs through June 9, celebrates the Bonovitzes' donation of their highly regarded collection of 20th century American outsider art. 

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In an article about the collection and the show, Times reviewer Roberta Smith wrote that the donation "will add to the museum's already substantial holdings in this area with around 200 generally superb paintings, sculptures, drawings and assemblages … by 27 of the self-taught, often socially marginalized artists typically massed beneath the outsider banner." The exhibition, she said, showcases work by both well-known "giants" and less familiar artists.

Outsider art has been recognized as a distinct field since the early 20th century in Europe and the 1930s in the United States, and interest in it is seen to be growing recently. Such artists generally have no formal training or connections to the professional or commercial art world.

On its website, the Foundation for Self-Taught Artists describes its mission as presenting and promoting information and scholarly research on such artists, as well as "foster[ing] public understanding and appreciation of self-taught artists and their work."

Zimmerman, who earned her bachelor's degree at Harvard University, has worked on special exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 2008 and has guest-curated numerous exhibitions at the UD Museums. Her specialization is in outsider and self-taught art.

Article by Ann Manser

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