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September 11, 2021 - October 23, 2021

Outside Forces

Art Enables’ 15th annual exhibition of work by self-taught artists September 11 – October 23, 2021 Public gallery hours: Thursdays 5 – 7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The term “outsider art” may call to mind a number of concepts, many that have been historically debated. Defined in the strictest sense, it may include only artists who work in extreme isolation, have little to no contact with other artists and art institutions, and who may not even have a concept of their own work as art. Since the term was coined, outsider art has continued to gain recognition and popularity. With that increase in recognition - and under the ever-present influence of the internet - the term is often (sometimes controversially) used more broadly. Self-taught artists may be considered "outsider" even if they have more awareness of the art world than like-minded artists of the past. While an exact definition of outsider art can be difficult to pin down, one often feels they know it when they see it: inventive work motivated by the artist’s own personal concepts and desires, rather than the expectations and trends of the mainstream art world. 

Art Enables embraces these more expansive parameters in “Outside Forces.” Featured artists include individuals who are emerging and self-taught, are from traditionally underrepresented communities, artists with disabilities, and those who may not have had many opportunities to exhibit in the past. All have paved their own way in the formation of their work, representing personal experiences and interests in individual styles developed outside the conventions of mainstream art education and culture.

This exhibition began in 2006 as a way for DC-area groups working with self-taught artists to exhibit together. Over the last 15 years, the exhibition’s success has seen it grow to span all three exhibition spaces at Art Enables, featuring artists from across the nation alongside our resident artists. The show continues to be an excellent introduction for a community curious about the work of self-taught artists looking to start their own collection with a selection of affordable work in a wide array of styles.