As Essential as Dreams: Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Stephanie and John Smither

As Essential as Dreams: Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Stephanie and John Smither

Michelle White, with additional contributions by Lynne Adele, Brooke Davis Anderson, Haley Berkman, David Breslin, Víctor M. Espinosa, William Fagaly, Edward M. Gómez, Jo Farb Hernández, Lee Kogan, Colin Rhodes, and Leslie Umberger
11 3/4 × 10 inches
112 pages

Published 2016


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Beginning in the 1980s, Stephanie and John Smither accumulated a remarkable collection of works by self-taught artists. This stunning book examines the Houston-based couple’s approach to the process of collecting, their relationships with artists, and selected works from their holdings. A team of prominent curators, writers, critics, and art historians focus on key works by twelve artists, including the boisterous neo-expressionist assemblages of Thornton Dial; brightly colored visual interpretations of the Bible by the artist, musician, and evangelical preacher Sister Gertrude Morgan; Oscar Hadwiger’s highly detailed wood models of fantastical architecture; and Carlo Zinelli’s narrative tableaus of stylized figures and animals. Also featured are works by the Virginia ceramicist Georgia Blizzard; large sheets of paper filled with fanciful depictions of floating figures, beasts, and vegetation by Solange Knopf; drawings by Hiroyuki Doi, Martín Ramírez, and Dominico Zindato; paintings by Jon Serl and Johnnie Swearingen; and carved wood sculptures by the Navajo medicine man and artist Charlie Willeto.

About the Authors
Michelle White is curator at the Menil Collection, Houston.

Lynne Adele is an independent art historian who specializes in the work of self-taught artists.

Brooke Davis Anderson is executive director of Prospect New Orleans.

Haley Berkman is curatorial assistant at the Menil Collection, Houston.

David Breslin is the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation chief curator of the Menil Drawing Institute, Houston.

Víctor M. Espinosa is a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the Ohio State University and an authority on transnational migration and art.

William Fagaly recently retired as the Françoise Billion Richardson curator of African Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Edward M. Gómez is an arts journalist, critic, and graphic designer.

Jo Farb Hernández is a professor of art and art history, and director of the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery, at San José State University, California.

Lee Kogan is curator emerita of the American Folk Art Museum, New York.

Colin Rhodes is dean of the Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney and director of STOARC (Self-Taught and Outsider Art Research Collection).

Leslie Umberger is curator of folk and self-taught art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.