Outsider and Self-Taught Artists of the Appalachian Region: 20th and 21st Centuries


This research guide will concern visual artists whose artistic skills are practiced without formal instruction in the fine arts. Many of these artists are considered “visionary,” meaning that they view their art as being inspired by supernatural or religious experiences, visions, or dreams, and in many cases see themselves as emissaries of God, spreading the Gospel or other religious messages via their artistic expression.

For the purposes of this pathfinder, Appalachia includes Northeast Mississippi, North Alabama, and North Georgia, as many well-known outsider arts hail from these states, which are sometimes interpreted as culturally separate from the mountain South. However, the artists of the Deep South are the most well known and most collected among contemporary American outsider artists. The northern regions of Georgia and Alabama, which lie in the margin between the Deep South and Appalachia, are in particular associated with a prolific output of outsider art so research into this topic necessarily includes those regions.

This guide strives to take into account artists working in all visual media, including painting, sculpture, “yard art,” or art landscapes of found objects, and a variety of other forms but does not include traditional skilled arts such as basketry, woodcarving, instrument-making, pottery or any of those folk arts associated strongly with Appalachia which require specific learning. However, one may refer to works on these traditional arts for the sake of comparing them to works of true outsider art.

Outsider art is an umbrella term, and under it may fall the subcategories of prison art, “tramp art” by itinerant travelers, art by mental patients and the mentally ill, and decorative arts, in which an artist may modify a ready-made object with his or her personal creative touch. Sources of information about outsider art are somewhat of a grab bag, as outsider art takes varied and many forms, and I have elected to include sources that discuss them all. As most scholarship regarding outsider art has occurred within the last twenty-five years, and as the collecting of outsider art only came into vogue in the latter part of the 20th century, the sources included in this pathfinder are quite current and may not be as extensive as those which pertain to more established fields of art.

Few, if any, sources were found regarding artists specifically from the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Introductory Text: 

Rhodes, Lynette I. American Folk Art from the Traditional to the Naïve. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art; Bloomington: distributed by Indiana University Press, c1978.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Art brut
  • Folk art
  • Outsider art
  • Art, amateur
  • Raw rt
  • Outside sculpture


  • Art and religion
  • Folk art, Black
  • Folk artists


  • Arts, visual
  • American art


  • Decorative art
  • Primitivism in art
  • Art, primitive
  • Art and mental illness
  • Psychciatric art
  • Psychotic art
  • Tramp art
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Folk art
  • Museum of Appalachia, Norris, TN
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • N6512
  • N6520
  • N6530
  • N6536
  • N6538
  • N7432
  • N5310
  • N5311
  • N8356
  • RC473
  • NK805
  • N346.N82
  • NK808
  • NC139
  • NK9712
  • TT848
  • TT199.7

Dewhurst, C. Kurt et. al. Religious Folk Art in America : Reflections of Faith. New York: E.P. Dutton, in association with the Museum of American Folk Art, c1983. UNCA GENERAL NK805.D49 1983.

Ericson, Jack T. Folk Art in America: Painting and Sculpture. New York: Mayflower Books, 1979. WCU GENERAL N6510.5.P7 F67.

Fine, Gary Alan. Everyday Genius: Self-Taught Art and the Culture of Authenticity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. ASU MAIN STACKS:
N7432.5.A78 F56 2004.

Livingston, Jane and John Beardsley. Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980. Jackson: Published for the Corcoran Gallery of Art by the University Press of Mississippi Center for the Study of Southern Culture, c1982. UNCA GENERAL N6538.N5 L58 1982.

Maizels, John with Roger Cardinal. Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1996. ASU MAIN STACKS N7432.5.A78 M34 1996.

Manley, Roger. Signs and Wonders: Outsider Art Inside North Carolina. Raleigh: University of North Carolina Press for the North Carolina Museum of Art. 1989. ASU APP COLL N6530.N8 M35 1989.

Moses, Kathy. Outsider Art of the South. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, c1999. ASU MAIN STACKS N6520.M69 1999.

Quimby, Ian M. G. and Scott T. Swank, eds. Perspectives on American Folk Art. New York: Published for the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, DE by Norton, c1980. ASU MAIN STACKS NK805.P47 1980.

Rubin, Cynthia Elyce, ed. Southern Folk Art. Birmingham, AL: Oxmoor House, c1985. ASU APP COLL NK811.S68 1985.

Swain, Adrian, ed. African-American Folk Art in Kentucky. Morehead, KY: Kentucky Folk Art Center, 1998. ASU APP COLL NK839.3.A35 A333 1998.

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell, eds. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, c2006. ASU APP COLL F106.E53 2006.

Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. Gerard C. Wertkin, ed. New York: Routledge, 2004. ASU MAIN STACKS NK805.E6 2004.

Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists. Chuck Rosenak. New York: Abbeville Press, c1990. ASU REFERENCE NK808.R6 1990.


Sellen, Betty-Carol. Outsider, Self Taught, and Folk Art Annotated Bibliography: Publications and Films of the 20th Century. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, c2002. ASU APP COLL Z5956.O85 S45 2002.

Abstracts and Indices: 

Art Full Text
Wilson Art Abstracts
Art Index Retrospective: 1929-1984


Folk Art. New York: American Folk Art Museum, Quarterly, 1971-2008.

The Folk Art Messenger. Richmond, VA: Folk Art Society of America, Three times/year, 1987-.

The Outsider Magazine. Chicago: Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Three times/year, 1998-.

Raw Vision. New York: Quarterly, 1989-. ASU PERIODICALS.


Compiled by: 

Compiler: Lauren Byram, 6 December 2010