“I am growing flowers that are not grown anywhere else.”
Anna Zemánková from “The Dawn Drawings of Anna Zemánková” by Jo Farb Hernandez in Raw Vision, No. 14, Spring 1996. 40-45.
Anna Zemánková is a self-taught artist known for her beautifully abstract and imaginative botanical drawings. Anna (1908-1986) was born in Olomouc, Moravia (now the Czech Republic). She loved making art as a child but was told to focus on more practical pursuits. She became a dental technician, married an army officer, and devoted her time to raising her children.
From the outside, Anna’s life appeared full with the busy activities of family life, yet she often felt like she was missing something. She still carried sorrow from the loss of her first born son and began to feel more depressed about the state of her life.
In her early 50s, needing a positive outlet to manage her depression, she turned to art again. One of her three sons was a sculptor, and he happily encouraged her to channel her sadness into art. He helped her buy art supplies and from there her creativity took off. She worked on her drawings in the early morning hours while the house was quiet and still. In the 1970s, Anna expanded her exploration of art, adding collage and embroidery.
Over the years, Anna hosted art showings or “open house” exhibitions. Her work gained the recognition it deserved after being viewed by French painter and sculptor, Jean DuBuffet. (DuBuffet coined the term art brut.) He included several of her pieces in the Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne, which is the world’s most notable collection of outsider and self-taught art. Zemánková was also included in a show at Hayward Gallery in London in 1979. Since then, her works have been widely exhibited and cherished by many collectors.
Harry Underwood is one of my favorite painters. I first saw his work at the Outsider Art Fair about ten years ago and immediately purchased a piece (which was a rare occurrence back then). It’s hanging above me as I write this.
Harry was born in Florida in 1969 and currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a self-taught artist who began painting in 2001 while working as a flooring installer. Harry dedicated his spare time to working on his art, and his persistence eventually paid off. His work is represented by several notable galleries and has been in shows in the United States, France, and England.
Harry’s paintings evoke a sense of nostalgia and are slightly surrealistic. They conjure up feelings of simplicity, summertime vacations, childhood memories, and a longing for another time or an imagined place. The nostalgia is enhanced by his use of beautifully subdued and expressive colors.
His process involves outlining his painting on plywood using a mechanical pencil and then filling it in with latex house paint. The pencil marks become part of the picture – adding an extra element to them. He also layers poems and words onto his paintings, and has referred to his work as “illustrated poetry.”
“And there’s no truer sound than a sound never found from the shy, the innocent, and the unknown.”
Gayleen Aiken (1934-2005) was a self-taught artist from Barre, Vermont. Many of her artworks feature a family of 24 imaginary cousins called the Raimbilli Cousins. She invented them when she was a child.
A review in the New York Times from 2013 aptly describes her work:
“Carefully detailed and quirkily annotated pencil and crayon drawings of musical instruments, rural homes in zooming perspective and the inner workings of a granite gravestone company, whose raw material comes from nearby quarries, exude infectious curiosity about the world around her. There is much commotion in her works.”
Aiken passed away in 2005, leaving behind a large body of artwork, including handmade books, paintings, and cardboard figures. To view more of her work, visit the Gayleen Aiken Collection page at GRACE (Grass Roots Art and Community Effort).