Outstanding Outsiders

Susan Te Kahurangi King

This weekend, New York’s art world became slightly more inclusive—at least temporarily—thanks to the Outsider Art Fair, which celebrates the work of self-taught and disadvantaged artists. With sales intimately tied to the artists’ unique biographies, the fair provided an opportunity to dig deeper into the work of a few individuals. The fair’s director Becca Hoffman points to five artists who rose out of the creative ether.


Queenie McKenzie The late Australian artist Queenie McKenzie, who passed away in 1998, never learned to read or write, but was still able to address the world around her through her abstract paintings. Rendered in the muddy neutrals, her primal forms recall Aboriginal images, but it is McKenzie’s desire to address social issues with art that makes her work universal.

“Matches Spring Creek Stock Camp,” 1997 by Queenie McKenzie. Copyright estate of Queenie McKenzie, courtesy of Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, London.


Jerry the Marble Faun As a native New Yorker and former cab driver, Jerry the Marble Faun brings a lifetime of city experiences to his sculptures, which he began making when he retired. Carved out of marble and limestone, his work evokes the weathered stones that occupied the only green space of his childhood, Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery.

“Tongue-tied,” 2009 by Jerry the Marble Faun. Courtesy of Jackie Klempay, New York.


Susan Te Kahurangi King Raised on the North Island of New Zealand, Susan Te Kahurangi King stopped talking at age four but continued to draw prolifically. Her surreal-looking cartoons seem to speak volumes.

“Untitled,” c. 1960 by Susan Te Kahurangi King. Courtesy of the artist and Chris Byrne.


Bruce Davenport Jr. Born and raised in New Orleans, Bruce Davenport Jr. recently returned to making art in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as a way to deal with the devastation he observed around him. Steeped in the musicality of his city, Davenport’s work celebrates the way creativity can keep the darkness at bay.

“T.D.B.C. Presents I’m The Dude with the Dame, You the Chump with the Rump Roast,” 2013 by Bruce Davenport, Jr. Courtesy of Louis B. James, New York.


Sabhan Adam The dark, brooding figures in the work of the Syrian born, self-taught artist Sabhan Adam are charged with intense cultural symbology, and tempered with equal parts humor and skepticism.

“Untitled,” 2005 by Sabhan Adam. Courtesy of Galerie Polad-Hardouin, Paris.