Good Documentaries About Outsider Art
November 29, 2006 11:33 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for some good documentaries about outsider artists. Anything you've seen that you've enjoyed or were fascinated by - long and small pieces, pieces about the art and pieces about the artist, old and new. Specifically of artists that are still living and who are interesting characters. Thanks, MeFi.
posted by billysumday to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Benjamin Smoke is one of my favorite documentaries, period. Made by Jem Cohen, the same guy who made the Fugazi Movie. Also worth seeing:

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

The Cruise [not exactly an "artist" but certainly an outsider]

Jim White's documentary about the weird south.
posted by jtajta at 11:47 AM on November 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

A Man Named Pearl (IMDB), about Pearl Fryar, a self-taught topiary artist in a small South Carolina town. Fascinating man.

Fits your criteria exactly. Unfortunately, it's not out on DVD yet, and the website doesn't seem to have any information about upcoming screenings.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:49 AM on November 29, 2006

Jandek - Jandek on Corwood

Henry Darger - In The Realms of the Unreal.
posted by fire&wings at 11:56 AM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Haven't seen either of these, but:

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006)

Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll (2003) -- very interesting character. Homeless schizophrenic fellow turned cult hero.

I just watched the Devil & Daniel Johnston last was great. And the guy is still living.
posted by Milkman Dan at 11:57 AM on November 29, 2006

I second that Henry Darger doc - it's really great.
posted by jtajta at 11:57 AM on November 29, 2006

I third "The Devil and Daniel Johnston." Sounds like exactly what you're looking for.
posted by jacobm at 11:59 AM on November 29, 2006

Nobody's mentioned Crumb? Top 10 documentaries ever.
posted by spicynuts at 12:03 PM on November 29, 2006

Ohh, I think maybe I misinterpreted the word 'outsider'.
posted by spicynuts at 12:04 PM on November 29, 2006

I second The Cruise, definitely.

Check out Lars von Trier's The Five Obstructions, as a great exploration of the film-making process via a strange rivalry between two talented directors.

BTW, "Fur" is NOT a documentary. Emphasis on imaginary, not on portrait.
posted by hermitosis at 12:07 PM on November 29, 2006

Also: I third the Darger movie.

And I remembered that you HAVE to check out Winsor McCay's pioneering early 20th-century animations which are available on DVD.
posted by hermitosis at 12:14 PM on November 29, 2006

I don't know if it exactly meets the "Outsider" qualification, but Rivers and Tides - the documentary about Andy Goldsworthy is worth checking out.
posted by heh3d at 12:16 PM on November 29, 2006

The film "The Outsiders" was fantastic... Irwin Chusid from WFMU is an afficianado on the subject, so along with his book Songs in the Key of Z, this page has a lot of recommendations.
posted by loiseau at 12:19 PM on November 29, 2006

I liked the episodes of series "This is our music" (link 1, link 2, link 3, shown both on MTV and swedish television) that I saw.
posted by rpn at 12:30 PM on November 29, 2006

"Clay in the Blood" was produced in 1966 by the Smithsonian and specifically covers the Meaders Family of potters in Georgia. Most of the family is not as much "outsiders" as "folk craftsmen", but the son Lanier does strike an interesting line between the two and the whole film is worth seeing.

This is more of a tease, unfortunately, but there one called "A.R.T. (All Rendered Truth)" that looks at current-day folk artists (sorry, no link, no google love) and people I know who've seen it all agree it is great.

And if you're interested in the Pearl Fryar movie, which is also excellent, drop me a line and I'll put you in touch with someone involved with the film who can possibly direct you to a copy.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:47 PM on November 29, 2006

I loved Wild Wheels.
posted by serazin at 1:25 PM on November 29, 2006

Jarvis Cocker did an excellent series on outsider art for Channel 4 in the UK in 1999. I think there was a book that accompanied the series, but I never could find it. Googling may find you something about it.
posted by kenchie at 1:26 PM on November 29, 2006

Seconding The Five Obstructions and Rivers and Tides. Also check out Brakhage about cinematic artist Stan Brakhage, often hailed as the father of experimental filmmaking.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 2:08 PM on November 29, 2006

How to Draw a Bunny is an excellent documentary about mail artist Ray Johnson.
posted by RoseovSharon at 2:50 PM on November 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

On Ray Johnson, How to Draw a Bunny. Special Jury Prize at Sundance, FWIW, 2002.

A colleague sat us down in a conference room once and forced us to watch the PBS "Dancing Outlaw" documentary about Jesco White. Beggars belief.

This may sound odd, but there's a documentary on John Le Carre that is both deep and moving: The Secret Centre (2002).
posted by Phred182 at 2:51 PM on November 29, 2006

Oh sorry, I missed the part about "still living", as Johnson committed suicide. Artistic suicide though... so see the movie anyways to find out how he integrated art into all aspects of his life, including, his death. This film left me incredibly inspired (to live, and make art... not to kill myself!)
posted by RoseovSharon at 2:52 PM on November 29, 2006

Monster Road plot summary from imdb -

Monster Road explores the wildly fantastic worlds of legendary underground clay animator Bruce Bickford. Tracing the origins of his remarkably unique sensibility, the film journeys back to Bickford's childhood in a competitive household during the paranoia of the Cold War and examines his relationship with his father, George, who is facing the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. Bickford's films, especially the dark and magical clay animations he created for Frank Zappa in the 1970s, have achieved cult status worldwide. Entirely self-taught, the 56-year-old Bickford works alone in a makeshift basement studio in his house near Seattle. George's wondrous musings about the universe reveal a deep admiration for the implicit architect of such splendor while atheism prevents him from admitting the possibility of a God. Along with the wonder of creation, George considers the pain of a life spent disengaged from his family and centered on the imperfections in those around him.

Plus, it is a great film, and the animation is fantastic.
posted by scodger at 2:55 PM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Here's another... The Nomi Song about German musician Klaus Nomi.

Yeah, he's dead too and all... but certainly was about as "outside" as they come. A fascinating and sad story.
posted by RoseovSharon at 3:09 PM on November 29, 2006

I recommend Thoth which is about a guy who is very very hard to describe. He is best known to New Yorkers for performing in the tunnel near the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. He sings, in a made up language, in an unbelievable falsetto while he plays the violin and dances. He has percussive-instrument-type bracelets on his ankles and wears a gold loincloth and feathered headdress. He's really incredible.
posted by Mavri at 3:50 PM on November 29, 2006

The Five Obstructions has nothing to do with outsider artists, unless outsider artists is construed as non-mainstream artists.
posted by Falconetti at 4:55 PM on November 29, 2006

Jessica Yu has a couple -- The Living Museum and In the Realms of the Unreal.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:17 PM on November 29, 2006

King Gimp is a fantastic movie about Daniel Keplinger, an artist with Cerebal Palsy. I believe it won an oscar. Here's an NPR story about him.

I first saw this film in one of my Art Discussion classes, and I remember being deeply affected by it. Thanks for asking the question, thanks to everyone else for their responses, and thanks for helping to remind me of this film.
posted by wander at 7:40 PM on November 29, 2006

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