Intuit Sculpture/Outsider Art


This is part of an event, Face Time with Doc Atomic available at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.

Artist:  Steve Thoma, aka Doc Atomic

For more information, click on Doc Atomic above, or email him at:  Also, more information can be found at

Essentially, my beginnings in Outsider Art involved a local writers group that would travel to local museums to view the art and any exhibits. We visited The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art in Chicago early last year and I found it fascinating. The concept of such dynamic art and how it came to be sincerely left a profound impression on me. I’m glad I went as I never knew of such a concept. I just thought art was art, I mean, I knew of Impressionists, Cubism and the basic elements, but, had no idea of this sort of thing.

‘Outsider Art’, roughly, equates to self-taught artists or art makers who have little contact with the art world or any art institutions. Outsider art considers extreme mental states or elaborate fantastic worlds or universes, according to Wikipedia, though; some verification is needed for citation purposes. This explanation, still, provides insight to much of the art I came across at The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.

So, I chose this piece a few reasons. First, I am very visual. I like the texture, the fact that it operates on three dimensions and the fact that seems attainable to me… as if, given time; I can learn the skill to do something like this, unlike sculpting the many incarnations of ‘David’. There are elements of this that remind me of other genres, most notably, Art Deco. I am immediately reminded of the movie ‘Metropolis’. I am also reminded of other movies like ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Avatar’. Since I used to work in a lot of different buildings in Chicago, I’ve seen many incarnations of the Art Deco style and had always marveled at its elegance. I am also drawn to the colors; I just like blues and thing the silver/pewter compliments it nicely.

It looks like its face is made with tile while the ‘scalp’ and nape of the neck have those spikey elements which looks like a futuristic city, filled with high-rise buildings, which, to me looks really great. So, as this is a sculpture of a bust, what I see is life … colonized in the form of land mass – the scalp with sky-scrapers surrounded by or surrounding a body of water – in itself life-giving. Possibly, this also represents the ‘colonies’ of germs living on our skin and this is some manifested representation of that.

The base is the final touch. That it’s polished adds to the mild shimmer without making it shine or glow. It has a mild visual ‘hum’ that is striking to me. All in all, there isn’t anything that is glaring or stands out, like it doesn’t belong. It seems that everything flows together naturally, like it’s all supposed to go together.

I guess I’m into futuristic art along with gothic, though, this isn’t goth. The futuristic art allows me to have hope, hope for humanity … that life will go on. This piece allows me that fantasy or hope, a way to escape some of the gloom I see in the news. All this stuff about deforestation, global warming, overpopulation, crime, war … it’s depressing. Art like this allows me an escape from all the doom and gloom. So, at times, this allows me to day dream of better things and better days.

Some things to consider:

  • Is Outsider Art truly visionary or will it be seen as a passing fad?
  • Does one need to formally trained by a school or via an apprenticeship to be considered a ‘real’ artist?
  • Is there really any difference between Avant Garde art like Magdalena Abakanowicz, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Yoko Ono and Outsider Art?
  • Can popular Outsider Art still be considered Outsider Art?
  • Is there resistance from mainstream museums and galleries to Outside artists?
  • Is it really necessary to distinguish between ‘insider’ art and Outsider Art?
  • Finally, does classifying it as Outsider Art/’insider’ art (or non-art) detract from the intended purpose of the piece?

Ryan Sauers


18 thoughts on “Intuit Sculpture/Outsider Art

  1. Im not sure what to make of this pic, but i like it for some strange reason. In one of the question that was asked it said does someone have to be trained or go to school to be a real artist? I dont believe so. I think that art is what you make it and that as long as you understand it then its art. School may help and being trained in somthing is always a plus, but not a requirement to be considered a true artist.

  2. This sculpture is an amazing piece, and I am inspired by this idea of creating art with found and salvaged electronic and scientific objects. In working with young children, I find some of the best art materials in the recycle bin! I looked at Doc Atomic’s site and found the concepts of destructive preservation and dynamic structure very interesting. So, is Outsider Art visionary or a passing fad? I feel these works are thoughtful and open to interpretation which could keep them relevant. However, how can we really be sure which art will transcend popular culture? Great post!

  3. I do appreciate you commenting on this. I appreciate your time, thank you. I’ll be sure to address your comment in class.

  4. Pingback: Intuit Sculpture/Outsider Art | 4stanza

  5. I really like this piece! I love that different textures and color combinations. I feel like this piece represents a robotic modern version of an Avatar character for sure. I love the overall dimension of all the pieces used and it has a grinding gear feeling that i like. This piece isn’t something that i would pick but I enjoy it for that reason. I look on the face is kind of mysterious and I could debate her expressions for a while. I love the metal foundation it is on and i like that everything according to color is out of tho world. Definitely a unique piece of art that i’m glad you decided to share!

  6. Wow Ryan!
    At first when I saw the image you uploaded to present us with your blog, i thought to myself that is was an image not in my interest. But then, I agreed to myself that I would take a step back and read your blog with an open mind because that is merely what looking into art is all about. First, I never knew such art existed. It was interesting reading about something that I have never seen or heard of before. In fact, I believe that was why I did not like image at first sight. It was because I didn’t know how to interpret it. I am used to seeing art that is typical and familiar that since this piece is out of my comfort zone i felt like it was uncomprehending. So on, as I continued reading I was absolutely astonished by your writing Ryan! I was so compelled by your use of descriptions and imagery that I loved how you don’t judge this piece! It gave me a sense that you interacted with this piece with not just an open mind but with a deeper insight as well because you have given us many relations that this piece has towards you. For instance, you related that you are attracted to colors, and since this piece had a blend of colors to it, you seemed to enjoy the compliments it gave. I like that you did this because I think as all non-artists or artists look at pieces of work we secretly do this because this is how we create a meaning to the artwork to ourselves.. I am overall astonished how you brought your ideas to this piece because i think it brought this piece to life. I LOVED that you thought this work represented “the ‘colonies’ of germs living on our skin”. it quite honestly gave me the goosebumps reading this line because I could understand your viewpoint and I for one think your idea is DEAD ON TRUE! I think that Outsider art is DEFINITELY visionary and isn’t a passing fad because this art tells a story! And it tells a story in all aspects such as in texture, color and definition. Such creativity begins with visions and reading your blog (in my opinion) speaks that and I will definitely keep that in mind as I look at art. Your insights inspired me! Thank you!

  7. I truly love this piece! I feel like i have a connection to this piece. At first glance this piece reminds me of the Chicago skyline and brings back great memories of living there. I liked this piece not just because i feel like i have a connection to it but i like how he used the smooth tiles to create a texture throughout the piece without ruining the flow. I find it interesting when you take different textures and combined them to create new texture. One of the question he ask was “does someone need to be formally trained or been in a internship to be consider an artist”? Art is a expression of someones outlook on something even if it isn’t seen the same in others eyes. I don’t think that someones art should be judged on there level of education. If its a great piece the shows outstanding principles of art who cares how they learned in or where they came from.

  8. I love this work of art, as I am partial to multi-dimensional pieces myself. The details and textures applied to the entire head are amazing and really set this sculpture a part from others. The tiles on the face as well as the spikes on top are very well placed and the whole piece seems well thought out and time consuming. One thing that I really like about this is that it seems to be crafted as if a postmodern world has united with a futuristic world. The tiles combined with the metals really give it a unique and interesting finish. BEAUTIFUL!

  9. When I first saw this sculpture it reminded me of a mix of actual texture and visual texture because this piece of art looks like something you would be able to feel. But at the same time it looks like something that could be an illusion or just imaginary. It’s not your normal feather or rock it’s something a lot different. I can definitely relate to what you said about this sculpture looking like an avatar. I agree with your statement a 100% because the avatars were blue and had similar markings on their faces. This sculpture also kind of reminds me of a punk rocker rocking out to jams and the circular thing by his ear almost looks like a pair of Dre Beats headphones. To answer one of the questions about whether outsider art is truly visionary or will it be seen as a passing fad. My opinion is that outsider art will always be visionary and it will always be something unique for everyone because it’s not just another Da Vinci or Van Gogh and because the artist chose to draw or sculpt the piece on the spot it’s not just something you can replicate. Another thing is that there will always be different outlooks about how the world will change and this type of art work will keep changing as years pass so I think this type of work will just improve as the years pass by.

  10. Thanks for the post Ryan!

    To answer one of your discussion questions, yes, I do believe there is resistance in fine art galleries and museums when it comes to outsider art. From a strictly financial standpoint, I’m sure if the art institute of Chicago had the choice between displaying “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci and relatively unknown outsider art, there would be no contest. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Warhol, these are recognizable and huge names in the art world that can’t be passed up. However I think outsider art absolutely has a place in the world. From it’s humble beginnings we can absolutely expect great things, in humble places. Maybe instead of big art cities like London, Paris, or New York, we can see smaller art galleries such as here in Chicago pick some pieces up for display. At the end of the day, I believe that the prestige behind a name doesn’t necessarily mean it’s guaranteed to be a great piece. I mean common, is one of Da Vinci’s doodle’s in a page margin HAVE to be better than the best, unknown sculptor’s Magnum opus? I think not!

  11. The piece itself is quite good! I especially enjoy the layering involved in the simulated ‘hair’ when contrasted to the mosaic-esque skin texture, and I do agree with your comments about the color choices (blues accented with silver is a particular favorite color scheme). My question is in regards to the concept of “Outsider Art”, Particularly in differentiating what counts for someone to be considered an Outsider. Is it truly ever possible for someone to not have had at least some influence from the world of Fine Arts? All art, from portraiture in museums to simple advertisements are inextricably influencing all other art at all times. It seems very improbable that someone would not draw from all influences when creating art, and thus it seems that it’d be difficult to say that someone is completely free from that influence. Perhaps the definition would be then someone who’s studied formally? But then the question is what counts as formal study? I personally think that it’s rather hard to not receive some form of learning from just observing art in our everyday lives.

  12. This art work is a great piece and the amount of detail is amazing. I am glad you choose this piece is something that you dont see everyday. In addition there are so many things to look at in this picture. Also you wrote this blog very well. It is very interesting since it is multi dimensional and has so many aspects to look at such as the lines that go across the face. I really enjoyed looking at this piece of art.

  13. I can definitely see how you connect the movies with the artwork, especially with avatar and blade runner. Very well written article and the detail in the artwork is amazing.

  14. I love it, especially the references to art deco, which is a style I’ve always had a strong affinity for, including the movie Metropolis. There are many surviving exampkes of art deco architecture in Chivago. A very cool place to visit, if you love the style, is South Beach’s art deco district in Miami, Florida. It is spectacularly cool. One of my favorite pieces from out day at Intuit Gallery that day was the painted dining room tabke on the front wall, Ryan. It was a fun day.

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