Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible

Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible

Clare Elliott, with a contribution by Robert Gober
9 1/2 × 10 1/2 inches
112 pages

Published 2013


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Self-described visionary artist Forrest Bess (1911–1977) spent most of his life on the Texas coast in a bait camp accessible only by boat. By day he eked out a meager living fishing, but at night and during the off-season he painted prolifically, creating an extraordinary body of mostly small-scale canvases rich with a enigmatic symbols transcribing the visions that he’d experienced since early childhood. Despite his isolation, these works captured the attention of a number of his contemporaries in the art world and were shown in New York from 1949 to the mid-’60s. An artist’s artist, he has since been periodically rediscovered by the public. This is the first publication in more than 20 years to present a representative sample of this compelling painter’s artwork. Includes a comprehensive exhibition history and bibliography.

About the Authors
Clare Elliott is assistant curator at the Menil Collection. She has written for a number of publications, including Imprinting the Diving: Byzantine and Russian Icons from the Menil Collection (2011) and Art and Activism: Projects of John and Dominique de Menil (2010).

Artist Robert Gober represented the United States at the 2001 Venice Biennale and had a project about Forrest Bess in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. He has had solo exhibitions at venues including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Menil Collection.