Faith and Fantasy in Outsider Art from the Permanent Collection, on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. February 13–April 26, 2009

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center will present Faith and Fantasy in Outsider Art from the Permanent Collection, a selection of more than 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and mixed-media works by 39 “outsider” or self-taught artists, which will be on view in the Prints and Drawings Galleries from February 13 through April 26, 2009.

Curated by Mary-Kay Lombino, The Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator at the Art Center, Faith and Fantasy will feature a wide-selection of media, drawn from the 110 works recently given to the Art Center by alumna Pat O’Brien Parsons (Vassar College class of 1951). “The Art Center is committed to bringing this work to our audience and placing it in the context of art history by displaying it in thematic exhibitions that highlight the most relevant work in the collection,” Lombino said.

All the artists of Faith and Fantasy have been active within the last 20 years and come from a range of geographic, economic, and cultural backgrounds. The exhibition includes work by Minnie Adkins, Aaron Birnbaum, Thorton Dial, Howard Finster, Menno Krant, Dwight MacIntosh, John Patrick McKenzie, Donald Mitchell, Martín Ramírez, Mose Tolliver, and Inez Nathaniel Walker, along with work by several lesser-known artists.

Faith and Fantasy addresses common themes often found in work by “outsider” artists, including biblical and religious topics, fictional narratives developed from the artists’ imaginations and rich fantasies, as well as allegorical use of human figures.

“Several of the artists in Faith and Fantasy use imagery that reflects their own intensely personal religious beliefs,” noted Lombino. “They sometimes refer to spiritual visions they have experienced, while at other times creating their own interpretations of familiar themes such as Adam and Eve. The common focus on legend, myth, dreams, and fantasies can be seen as evidence of the artists’ alienation from family and community, thus further defining them as outsiders.” 

One of the three galleries will be devoted to religious-themed works, including various depictions of Adam and Eve. One of these works is a large genre painting by 85-year-old Alabama artist Myrtice Snead West. “Like so many outsider artists, Ms. West began to make art after facing a tragedy in her life,” noted Lombino. “Other biblical themes are depicted in the colored-pencil drawings of Egyptian-born shoemaker Adolf Cattalinich, who learned to draw while serving a three-year prison sentence.”

“As with many self-taught artists, they began their art practice outside of the mainstream venues of contemporary art, and several of them have moved steadily into a broader spectrum of acceptance and appreciation,” explained Ms. Lombino. “They often demonstrate an all-consuming devotion to art-making and a tendency to create extremely personal and imaginative narratives, resulting in artwork that is highly individualized and idiosyncratic.”


Ms. Parsons, whose donated works will be featured Faith and Fantasy, is a collector and cofounder of the gallery, Webb and Parsons. The gallery was at the forefront for presenting outsider art within the contemporary art market. Ms. Parsons noted that in the 1970s, “Webb and Parsons – a contemporary American art gallery – just off the staid, village green in the Revolutionary village of Bedford, New York, annually presented an exhibition of work by self-taught creators.” She additionally remarked that, “Our artistic spectrum went from trained artists like Judy Pfaff, Elizabeth Murray, and Joan Mitchell to Inez, an inmate in the local  
prison, Sister Gertrude, Joseph Yoakum, and the many others who now have a become almost household names.” Ms. Parsons is now a private dealer based in Burlington, VT.

The opening reception for Faith and Fantasy will take place on Friday, February 13, 2009, at 6:30pm and will include the lecture “Through the Lens of Language: Self Taught Artists from Dubuffet to Today,” at 5:30 pm by Brooke Davis Anderson, director and curator of the Contemporary Center and director of the Henry Study Center at the American Folk Art Museum. Ms. Anderson has written and lectured extensively on American art, in particular African-American art and the work of contemporary, self-taught artists.


(free and open to the public)

Friday, February 13, 5:30 pm

Lecture: “Through the Lens of Language: Self Taught Artists from Dubuffet to Today,” by Brooke Davis Anderson, director and curator of the Contemporary Center and director of the Henry Study Center at the American Folk Art Museum

Taylor Hall, Room 203

Friday, February 13, 6:30 pm

Opening reception

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie
(845) 437-5632,

About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building’s primary donor, opened in 1993. The Lehman Loeb Art Center’s collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise almost 18,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college’s inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th- century painters. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar’s extensive collections.

Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free. The art center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm; Thursday, 10:00 am–9:00 pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00 pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. The Art Center is wheelchair accessible. For more information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, November 21, 2008