So What is Outsider Art and Why Should You Care?

With Special Reference to Howard Finster, Mr. Imagination, and Norbert Kox.

Professor Norman Girardot to Speak at Our March 

Norman GiardotOn March 6th, 2019 the North Penn Arts Alliance will have as our guest speaker, Professor Norman Girardot. His topic will be “Outsider Art”

Norman Girardot is a Distinguished Professor in the Religion Studies Department of Lehigh University. Trained in the comparative history of religions under Mircea Eliade at the University of Chicago, he taught at Notre Dame University and Oberlin College before coming to Lehigh in 1980. His special research areas include Chinese religious tradition, especially Daoism, popular religious movements (e.g. the posthumous Elvis Presley cult), the intellectual history of the study of China and the rise of the discipline known as “comparative religions,” and the relation of religion and outsider/vernacular/visionary art.

His current research and writing largely concerns outsider artistic and visionary tradition, especially as seen in the work of artists like Mr. Imagination, Howard Finster, Aloise Corbaz and others. These pursuits have culminated in an interpretive book for the University of California Press focused on the frantically prolific Southern Baptist preacher, maverick outsider, and visionary artist, Howard Finster (1916-2001). This work, tentatively titled “Envisioning Howard Finster: The Myth and Meaning of a Stranger from Another World”, published in 2015.

Working closely with the Lehigh University Art Galleries and other art centers, he has curated a number of exhibitions of outsider/visionary folk art. He has also collaborated on several quite peculiar art installation events that have tended to frighten as well as enlighten onlookers (e.g., massive display of iconic Spam, Peeps, Twinkie, and burnt toast art). In 2011, he has been a primary investigator for a Henry Luce Foundation grant (The Chinese Bridge Project) that led to student programs in China and the construction of an ancient Chinese woven timber bridge on the Lehigh campus. It has sometimes been noted that he has a seemingly perverse, if not obscene, fondness for calabash gourds.

We look forward to having Professor Girardot as our guest Speaker at our March 6th monthly meeting at our new home at 125 N. Main Street in North Wales, PA. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm.

The NPAA also offers exhibits, shows, and classes for children and adults through the North Penn School District’s Community Education program and at the William B.T. Trego Arts Center located at 125 N. Main Street in North Wales.

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