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