A post by my fellow editor Kyle Chayka got me thinking about the “outsider artist” designation and the different ways people define it.
By all accounts, Pearl Blauvelt (1893–1987) was a recluse who lived in northeastern Pennsylvania in a house without running water, plumbing or central heating. Her neighbors referred to her as the “Village Witch.” In the mid 1950s, she was declared incompetent and moved to a facility where she resided until she died. The house she lived in stood vacant for nearly fifty years, until it was bought and restored. The people who bought the house discovered Blauvelt’s drawings in an old wooden box lodged under long-abandoned piles of things.
On the internet exhibition space The State, a Tumblr-based website, artist Chris Collins has published “tyepilot.com”. The text and image-based essay riffs off the artist’s discovery of a hidden cache of spam images advertising work-from-home internet jobs. Tyepilot’s images are remarkably reminiscent of the trends of contemporary internet art, recycling the visual tropes of the early internet, from bad photo manipulation to fake lens flare. The images are fascinating, but even more interesting is our fascination for the lost artifacts of the internet, and the vagueness of their sources and creators. Could finds of these semi-anonymous digital artifacts constitute the folk art of the internet age? Is Tyepilot the Grandma Moses of the 21st century?