An Irresistible Urge to Create: The Monroe Family Collection of Florida Outsider Art

Bryant "Bubba" Gowens, Untitled, n.d., marker and glitter on wood, 27 3/4 x 41 3/4 inches. Courtesy of the Monroe Family Collection

Bryant "Bubba" Gowens, Untitled, n.d., marker and glitter on wood, 27 3/4 x 41 3/4 inches. Courtesy of the Monroe Family Collection

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Body/Description

During the last several decades, the work of Outsider artists has come to the forefront of our thinking about the nature of art as their paintings and sculptures have made their way into fine art museums hanging alongside new and time-tested paintings and sculptures.


Gary Monroe’s collecting Outsider art was not intentional. “Things just came my way,” he says. “The artists were all interesting.  I became curious about the work, which was all so invigorating because of the makers’ freedom of expression and, of course, the visual resolve they found to express themselves. These works questioned assumptions of what art is or what art can be. While they provoked, they delighted. 
Further, the artists possessed little, if any, concern with public acclaim, museum exhibitions, or their creations’ sales. Needless to say, they did not have artist’s reps or résumés.” During the last several decades, the work of Outsider artists has come to the forefront of our thinking about the nature of art as their paintings and sculptures have made their way into fine art museums hanging alongside both new and time-tested paintings and sculptures.


One thing led to another, and nearly a thousand pieces of art had been accumulated. Eighty-six works from the Monroe Family Collection have been selected for this exhibition, accompanied by an exhibition catalogue. The publication includes an essay by Gary Monroe, a discussion by Senior Curator Kathy Goncharov about the changing vocabulary of self-taught and folk artists, and a specially-commissioned poem by Campbell McGrath about artists’ urge to create.