In 1974, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis launched the exhibition Naives and Visionaries, showcasing nine artists whose work manifested itself through artistic environments, both secretive and public. Martin Friedman guest curated the show with Gregg Blasdel who, six years earlier, sounded the wake-up call to this genre of art in his October 1968 Art in America article “The Grass-Roots Artist.” While Americans had long witnessed the idiosyncratic creative expressions of art along the highways and back roads of the United States, for the most part, anyone who publicly stepped outside of the accepted neighborhood norm was dismissed as “oddballs or eccentrics.”
We’ve come a long way since then. Then again, we haven’t. Two steps forward and one step back will move one along, but it is slow-going. Even today, many cities in America have neighborhood building codes designed to squash the eccentric individualist for something as benign as the “wrong” color on his or her house.
Still, it is the courage of such nonconformists, with their fearless individualism and occasional obstinate behavior, who give us ordinary homeowners a bit more backbone to color outside the lines.