Revelations and Reflections of Self-Taught Artists

September 4 - October 17, 2004

Spirituality, a theme central to art for as long as humans have been engaged in the creative process, is given accessible and vibrant expression in Revelations and Reflections of Self-Taught Artists, opening on Sept. 4 at the Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College in Moraga.

Art historians and critics have grappled with descriptive terms for artists without formal training since the days of Grandma Moses. They have been labeled self-taught, outsider, naive, visionary, vernacular, or folk artists. From preachers to prisoners to social isolates, these fifty-five self-taught artists come from all walks of life and all regions of the country. While prophetic and apocalyptic depictions of heaven, hell, purgatory, angels, devils, and demons abound, powerful personal and societal issues of poverty, sexual brutality, and racism are confronted with a raw boldness and often with humor. Removed from the formal conventions of art, these artists have intuitively mastered the elements of color, form, composition, and texture. Ironically, self-taught artists have profoundly influenced the mainstream art world, particularly by their use of unexpected materials and by deft ability to mix text and images.

Many self-taught artists have a profound influence on family members, who also take up the making of art. Reverend Howard Finster and his son, Michael Finster, and Mose Tolliver and his daughter, Annie Tolliver, are two of the family groups represented in the exhibition. Other artists on view include Ronald and Jesse Cooper, Matryce West, and Jane Winkelman. In addition to paintings, drawings, sculptures, and ceramics, the exhibition includes ingenious constructions assembled from eclectic materials including tin, fabric, glass, gas heaters, shoes, doors, mud, bones, and tree roots.

Re-opening in the Keith Room is a selection of cigar box and panel paintings from the 1890s through 1909 from the College collection and private lenders by late 19th century master landscape artist William Keith (1838 - 1911). The miniature Keith paintings and frames have recently been conserved; most are on public view for the first time. A display of professional conservation materials and methods used to maintain oil on wood paintings is also on view.

Please join us on Saturday, September 18, from 2 until 5 p.m., for a special community celebration of the Hearst Art Gallery's fall exhibition, "Reflections and Revelations of Self-Taught Artists". The dreams, visions, intuitions and beliefs of the nationally renowned and unusual artists featured in this exhibition inspired them to create wonderful, bold, and unique works of art. We invite you to enjoy hands-on art activities for people of all ages, an engaging video about one of the artists, an exhibition "treasure hunt" for youngsters, and complimentary refreshments. Test your creative powers and use your own imagination to draw from life, make a print or collage, turn an old shoe into a work of art, or scraps of wood into a fabulous birdhouse.

By popular demand, Campolindo High School furniture design teacher Don Dupont will direct the birdhouse activity, and Orinda Union School District art teachers and Hearst Art Gallery Summer Art Camp teachers Linda Kam, Hillery Patterson, and Susan Zib will lead the rest of the hands-on activities.

$10 per family or $5 per person materials fee, free to Gallery family-level members. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Heidi Donner at (925) 631-4069 or

Revelations and Reflections of American Self-Taught Artists is curated by Robert Cugno and Robert Logan, directors of Media Gallery in Garnett, Kansas. The exhibition is organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA. The purpose of ExhibitsUSA is to create access to an array of arts and humanities exhibitions, nurture the development and understanding of diverse art forms and cultures, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. ExhibitsUSA is a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1972.

Gallery Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Admission Donation: $2, free parking
Main Desk: (925) 631-4379

The Hearst Art Gallery, a non-profit museum, is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

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Contact: Heidi Donner (925) 631-4069 or