UNCG Campus Weekly

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A generosity of eye and ‘outsider art’ at Weatherspoon

060116Feature_InsideTheOutsideOne self-taught artist, James Castle, used soot from his stove and sharpened sticks to draw on found paper and packaging. At the Weatherspoon, Collector William Louis-Dreyfus pointed to Castle’s and other’s works – and desire to produce art – as an example of “the strength of the artistic urge.”

The May 20 gallery talk by collector William Louis-Dreyfus, hosted by Weatherspoon museum director Nancy Doll, filled at least half of the large Bob & Lissa Shelley McDowell Gallery, where the exhibition is on view.

“Inside the Outside: Five Self-Taught Artists from the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation” will be on display through Sep. 4. Admission is free.

“Inside the Outside” showcases the work of James Castle, Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe, Bill Traylor and Willie Young.

Each of these artists has created a body of work that stands beside the canon of the mainstream art world, the organizers note. Among many things Louis-Dreyfus shared with the attendees:

  • “I am hugely impressed” by the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Louis-Dreyfus said. “It’s perfectly wonderful.”
  • How did he start collecting “outsider art”? he was asked. It was completely by accident, he explained. A friend showed him a work by Traylor. “I thought it was amazing.” But he balked at the asking price. But he couldn’t get it out of his mind, so he bought it.
  • His first appreciation of art? As a young teenager in Paris, he would sometimes skip school. “I would go to the movies – or the Louvre.” One painting was particularly enticing to him: “The Country Girl” by Dutch painter Frans Hal.
  • The documentary, which will be screened Thursday at the museum? “My daughter is an actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). She is married to a fellow who makes movies. They decided to make a film about the collection. The movie is a lot of fun and really good – (though) there’s too much of me in it. (Yet) it’s my daughter’s movie and I respect that. My daughter – she’s a great deal of fun.”

“I hope you like what you see,” he said in conclusion, adding amusingly deadpan, “If you don’t like, please don’t tell me about it.”

Enjoy a viewing of “Generosity of Eye” about Louis-Dreyfus and the collection June 2 at 6 p.m. in the Weatherspoon Auditorium. Admission is free.

By Mike Harris
Photograph by Loring Mortensen, as Louis-Dreyfus (in center) speaks with attendees.