Outsider Art in New Mexico
In recent years, the definition of “outsider art,” a term established in the early 1970s, has blurred. Is it purely applied to self-taught artists, those that practice with a sense of naïveté, a grouping of aesthetic values, or a term for creative practices excluded from the traditional gallery world? The Zane Bennett Contemporary Art collection features a handful of artists that fall under this umbrella in differing ways.
Featured in our current exhibition Black Rock Editions: A Print Showcase, Fatima Ronquillo and Timothy Cummings are both self-taught artists based in the state of New Mexico. Creating vivid, theatrical scenes, the artists are similar in their crafting of imagined portraits that defy their lack of formal training.
Ronquillo’s oeuvre combines the aesthetics and painting techniques of Old Master artworks with a “playful modern sensibility,” as described by the artist. Her polished compositions have been exhibited since she was fifteen years old and celebrated by numerous art and fashion publications, including American Arts, The Cut/New York Magazine, Vogue Gioiello, and Marie Claire, among others.
Offering a visual language for the struggles of sexuality, Cummings dreams up artworks of children and adolescents shaping their identities. While some works strip down the protagonist to reveal raw portraits, Cummings also depicts a mystical universe that aligns with the dreamlike evocations of outsider art—and the multifaceted process of growing into oneself.
A beloved pillar of the Santa Fe artist community, James Havard contrasts these two self-taught artists with a formal education at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Producing decidedly less-refined compositions, the pioneer of abstract illusionism mimicked qualities of outsider art, leaning into the naïveté of artistic creation.
While all three artists practice differently in inspiration, theme, and finish, they each hold connections to outsider art and the American Southwest. As the movement continues to evolve, it will be intriguing to watch New Mexico’s artists expand and refine the category.