This student-curated online art exhibition features the photography of various obscure, artist-created environments around the United States. All photographs in this exhibit were taken by James Smith Pierce. Pierce was an art historian, artist, and photographer who traveled the United States interviewing artists and photographing the artists’ creations.
The artists chosen for this exhibition possessed an unconventional way of displaying their art. This art is not hung up in museums or showcased in typical exhibitions but was instead created using the natural environment and materials the artists found readily available. These artists are often referred to as outsider artists and typically do not desire the attention drawn to their art; they simply want to have the ability to create their art uninterrupted. Outsider artists sometimes experience some sort of revelation, such as a religious calling, that drives their work. This is exemplified in several of this exhibition’s featured works.
The artist-created environments in this exhibition were created in the natural world, outside the confines of a traditional gallery. In this realm of artistry, there are no strict definitions for the art, only the imagination of the artist and their work. The downside to environmental art is the naturally occurring wear and tear of the art because of nature and time. The art in its environment is ephemeral. This is where photography plays an important role in capturing and documenting the beauty and essence of the art.
This road trip themed exhibition is intended to take viewers through a journey of photography to “visit” the artist-created environments that have been forgotten and/or destroyed. Road trips have evolved over time from pioneer explorations to escapes from the chaotic and hectic lives that people lead nowadays. The purposes of a road trip include relaxation, adventure, and exploration. So, what better way to experience an art exhibition than to virtually journey through the United States on a road trip to absorb all the art it has to offer?
This exhibition was curated by the students of the Spring 2020 Honors Introduction to Fine Arts course led by UND Art Collections Curator and UND Instructor, Sarah Heitkamp. It features the creative works of Brother Joseph, Driftwood Charley, E.T. Wickman, Howard Finster, Grandma Prisbrey, Herman Rusch, James Tellen, Loranzo D. Pugh, Philip Wagner, William Averett, William Notzke, Louis Charles Wippich, E.M. Bailey, Mary T. Smith, S.P. Dinsmoor, Father Dobberstein, Fred Smith, Paul Wegner, and Calvin and Ruby Black.
Through in-class discussions and time spent viewing 35mm slides with UND Art Collections, the topic for the exhibition began to focus on artist-made environments across the United States. This idea evolved from the shared interest in the environment and fascination with obscure locations. The students want to share something unique through this exhibition. A majority of individuals have never heard of these obscure environments, and they may never get the chance to visit them. Through this exhibition, you have the opportunity to explore these locations. Join us on a virtual road trip across the United States as we make stops in places you've never been.