UConn News HomeUConn News

Works by outsider artists at Atrium Gallery (Released: 8/18/97)

by Sherry Fisher, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- Roy Ferdinand, Jr. survived the street gangs of New Orleans. His drawings reflect his view of urban life.

Anderson Johnson, a guitar-playing preacher, paints religious and historical figures and women in dotted dresses.

Royal Robertson’s magic marker and painted images reveal his obsession with a futuristic world.

Welmon Sharlhorne, a former prison inmate, draws buildings decorated with animal motifs. He uses Bic pens.

All are artists whose work will be shown at the University of Connecticut’s Atrium Gallery. "Drawing on the Spirit of 9," an exhibit of drawings and paintings on paper by nine contemporary African American self-taught artists, will run Aug. 27 through Sept. 19. Known as outsider artists, they draw their creative strengths from outside the mainstream academic art world.

"Assembled together, the artists’ works present a powerful density of evocative images," says Sal Scalora, director of the Atrium Gallery and curator of the show. While each artist is unique in his own way, together, says Scalora "they create a visual dialogue beyond their own initial concerns. In effect, the exhibit draws on the cumulative spirit of these nine individuals who have all chosen to make images that hold real meaning for them," Scalora says.

When viewing the works on display, the audience "must never lose sight of the fact that all images represent the end of a creative act," says Scalora. "We, in effect, are looking at the final residue of this creative journey, which is a time-related exploration and layering of materials, a meandering of numerous creative urges," he says.

Henry Ray Clark started drawing kaleidoscopic designs in magic marker when he was an inmate at Texas State Prison. William Dawson of Chicago began his artistic career carving wood and assembling bones. He now paints animals, people and buildings. Lonnie Holly’s paintings capture his spiritual impulses, reflecting his belief that he has the ability to communicate with his ancestors. Henry Speller of Memphis, Tennessee, draws colorful long-legged people. His work reflects life in his neighborhood, characterized by street people and late-night jazz clubs. Luster Willis, of Egypt, Miss., began drawing as a child. He later became a draughtsman and painter of people. One of his favorite images is of a large fish cradled in the hands of a proud man: Glitter makes the fish appear alive; "This is it!" is written underneath the picture.

Last year, Scalora received the President’s Award for Promoting Multiculturalism and Affirmative Action from UConn. He used the award to travel to Louisiana and visit many of the artists in the show as well as several collectors.

The works on exhibit were loaned by Warren and Sylvia Lowe of Lafayette, La., and a private collector.

The Atrium Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building at the Storrs Campus, is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For information, call (860) 486-3930.