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    Cover photo: "Tom's Place" by Hugo Sperger

    I bought one of my favorite paintings for $25 at an art show that takes place the first Saturday of June every year – June 3 this year – in Morehead, Kentucky. And every year, I’m astonished that there isn’t a gigantic turnout for “A Day in the Country,” the annual outsider art fair founded more than 20 years ago by the nationally recognized Kentucky carver, Minnie Adkins.  

    Yeah, I confess, I’m trying to use affordable art to convince you to make the two-hour drive to Morehead because it’s simply crazy that the Morehead Conference Center isn’t packed. (There’s not even an admission charge.) Several Louisville artists participate in this show, which is unusual not only for its wide range of prices, but for its exuberant-to-the-point-of-mind-bending variety of art subjects and styles. You can find jig-sawed, brightly painted birds made by somebody’s grandpa, or you can check out very contemporary sensibilities, such as the work of nationally recognized artist Bruce New of Richmond, Kentucky, whose mixed media compositions are strongly graphic, often featuring bits of newsprint, with otherworldly figures that seem simultaneously ancient and futuristic. The bright and boldly animate carvings of African American life by Lexington’s Lavon Van Williams are always among the most exciting works in the show. Williams, a former University of Kentucky basketball star, creates strong figures that crowd and bend and curve into one another. They grasp and reach with gigantic hands; they dance on gigantic feet.

    Sculptures by Lavon Van Williams

    But I’m gushing. Sorry. Let me back up a second and define what this is. Outsider art is the work of self-taught artists. It includes the surprising work of developmentally disabled artists – for instance, the folks at StudioWorks on Eastern Parkway, who’ve participated at Morehead in previous years. It encompasses such folk art as the sharp-toothed foxes of Minnie Adkins. In its embrace is the divinely inspired message art – work like that of the late Georgia artist Howard Finster. And some of it, like the work of Louisville's Joshua Huettig, continues into new generations.

    Painting by Joshua Huettig

    Heuttig began painting after the sudden death of his father in 2007. He uses house paint on wood pulled from the Ohio River, creeks and garbage piles to produce mountain ranges, Native Americans and horses that are a mix of Lascaux cave art and childhood dream. His paintings are like post cards from a world where colors are richer and shapes are less fixed by the constraints of physics.

    Thaddeus Pinckney, another Louisville artist, produces works on paper that are like dream snapshots of African American urban life. His figures are blocky yet gauzy with featureless faces, making them both universal and secret, both neighbors and strangers.

    By Thaddeus Pinckney

    One of the many pleasures of this show is that it’s next door to the Kentucky Folk Art Center. Every year, the art center sells some of its vast permanent collection. This year, there’s a silent auction of deaccessioned non-Kentucky works, including much sought-after creations by Finster, Florida artist Purvis Young and Alabama artist Mose Toliver. You can also participate in this sale online, viewing the works here and then emailing

    Also this year, an exhibition of Bruce New’s work will launch Friday from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

    Jenni Laidman's picture

    About Jenni Laidman

    I'm a freelance writer who specializes in science and medicine but is passionate about art. I'm a hell of a cook. I think of white wine as training wheels for people who will graduate to red. I love U of L women's basketball. The best bargain in town is the $3 admission to U of L volleyball. Really exciting stuff.

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