Some would say that the definition of true art is its ability to provoke a response in the observer, be it positive or negative, emotional or rational. Art Brut–“brut” in the sense of raw–is a term applied to art created outside not only the boundaries of conventional culture, but by those outside mainstream society.
The unique at Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne contains works of artists from the fringes of society–schizophrenic patients, loners, lost souls, the criminally insane–who suddenly and unexpectedly began making their own art, often in middle or old age. For example, there was Henry Darger, who died an old man after spending a lifetime as a hospital porter in Chicago, his artistic talents unknown even to his closest neighbors, until his 19,000-page novel, filled with a thousand intricate watercolor illustrations, surfaced after his death.
What results is art entirely free from any conception of formal artistic rules or conventions, which challenges both how we tend to view such “outsiders” in our own communities, and our expectations of what art should be about. Many of the short biographies presented alongside each piece tell heartrendingly sad or disturbing stories about these untrained but passionate artists.
The art is fascinating by itself, but when connected with the often tragic life stories of the creators of these works, it takes on new, profound meaning.