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The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art

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The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art Cover

ISBN13: 9780226066851
ISBN10: 0226066851
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Reverend Howard Finster was twenty feet tall, suspended in darkness. Or so he appeared in the documentary film that introduced a teenaged Greg Bottoms to the renowned outsider artist whose death would help inspire him, fourteen years later, to travel the country. Beginning in Georgia with a trip to Finster's famous Paradise Gardens, his journey — of which The Colorful Apocalypse is a masterly chronicle — is an unparalleled look into the lives and visionary works of some of Finster's contemporaries: the self-taught evangelical artists whose beliefs and oeuvres occupy the gray area between madness and Christian ecstasy.

With his prodigious gift for conversation and quietly observant storytelling, Bottoms draws us into the worlds of such figures as William Thomas Thompson, a handicapped ex-millionaire who painted a 300-foot version of the book of Revelation; Norbert Kox, an ex-member of the Outlaws biker gang who now lives as a recluse in rural Wisconsin and paints apocalyptic visual parables; and Myrtice West, who began painting to express the revelatory visions she had after her daughter was brutally murdered. These artists' works are as wildly varied as their life stories, but without sensationalizing or patronizing them, Bottoms — one of today's finest young writers — gets at the heart of what they have in common: the struggle to make sense, through art, of their difficult personal histories.

In doing so, he weaves a true narrative as powerful as the art of its subjects, a work that is at once an enthralling travelogue, a series of revealing biographical portraits, and a profound meditation on the chaos of despair and the ways in which creativity can help order our lives.

Review:

"Driven by painful memories of a schizophrenic brother who had visions and turned to Christian fundamentalist thinking, Bottoms (Angelhead: My Brother's Descent into Madness) sought out religious outsider artists, hoping to discover whether artistic expression helps relieve the suffering of visionaries who hover between madness and ecstasy. He writes thoughtfully of his quest, which takes him first to Georgia to visit Paradise Gardens, a four-acre Christian art environment replete with biblical quotes and apocalyptic predictions created by the late Rev. Howard Finster. In South Carolina, Bottoms interviews William Thomas Thompson, a paralyzed ex-millionaire who was inspired by an apocalyptic vision to paint a 300-foot mural called 'Revelation Revealed.' In Wisconsin, the author calls on painter and sculptor Norbert Kox, once a member of the Outlaw biker gang and now a born-again Christian who lives in an abandoned store and creates savage critiques of organized religion. Although the art Bottoms sees is not to his liking, and the artists' politics are far to the right of his own, he presents sensitive vignettes. His poignant book, imbued with troubling thoughts of his brother's illness and his own uneasiness about his motives in seeking out marginalized artists, ends on a positive note: the creative process does indeed have life-affirming powers." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

About the Author

Greg Bottoms is assistant professor of English at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Angelhead: My Brother's Descent into Madness, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

PROLOGUE

THE FIRST NOTEBOOK

Visions from Paradise

THE SECOND NOTEBOOK

Revelation Theories

THE THIRD NOTEBOOK

Picture-Perfect Jesus

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 17 comments:

thegirlcanwrite, June 22, 2008 (view all comments by thegirlcanwrite)
I invite anyone interested in this book to read my experience with some outsider art, and Greg's book. I was especially hoping to let Greg know how much it affected me and invite him to read my essay from my site. Apparently I can't offer the link here but I hope Mr. Bottoms can contact me through this or by googling me so I can share with him. Anyone else interested in my essay I am also happy to provide a link to you!



Sincerely,
Lorette C. Luzajic
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AMYCM, January 24, 2008 (view all comments by AMYCM)
The Colorful Apocalypse is an amazing book. Some of the things the author points out about the ways in which marginalization and paranoid fringe thinking are fetishized and commodified--his words--in outsider museums and collections date back to the 80s and I remember discussing them in art school. For anyone who has ever read about outsider art, you know that most of what you find is superficial ad copy. The author calls this out. But nothing new there. And there is no real addition to the field of outsider art. This is a personal journal of the writer trying figure things out as he travels and its real subjects are the writer, religion, and abnormal psychology and suffering. What is fresh is the writing and Bottoms's rational mind in the face irrationality. The hateful things said about the author here did not suprise me. I closed the book thinking that some very spooky people were going to be mad. A great read by a fine if incautious writer. Highly recommended.
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nhkox, May 7, 2007 (view all comments by nhkox)
The previous responses of these readers, pointing out the author's self-serving ill intentions in writing this book are greatly appreciated. They have pointed out specific flaws in the reasoning and writing of Greg Bottoms, in the Colorful Apocalypse, that cannot be ignored.

Norbert H. Kox's delayed response to Greg Bottoms comment of April 27, 2007:

The inaccurate writings of Greg Bottoms have caused serious problems for William Thomas Thompson and myself. We had to address these falsehoods publicly since his publisher has not recalled the book.

Every time we counter one of his falsehoods with the true facts, he abandons that area of attack and sets up a diversion just as sinister, or worse. Never before have I encountered a person with such a bent on defaming innocent people. It is consuming far too much valuable time to continue defense against Bottoms' childish remarks. You, the reader, have the intelligence to see through the veneer of his "creative non-fiction" rhetoric spewed forth, both in his comments and in the book, and are able to discern where the truth is.

There is not enough time and space to answer all his points, and I have already allowed him to draw me too deeply into his game. It must stop somewhere, so I'll address just a couple of points from one of his April 27, 2007, comments.

He said, "If I accidentally less than precisely described a section of writing on a painting, of course I would fix it if it was deemed an actual factual error. And I'd apologize. Because that would be a real-world complaint."

He is speaking specifically of the 666 on the Idolatry painting, which he claims only adds up to 106. Even though he said he will correct it, he still says he can only see it adding up to 106. If you have been following these comments, and have seen the written facts clearly showing the Roman Numerals and their values, you have added them yourself and know their sum is 666. You can find the values in my April 2, 2007 comment, right here on Powell's. We believe that Bottoms is at least of average intelligence. If this is true, then he is not being honest when he says he only sees it adding to 106, because with the numbers right before you, it would not even take an average intelligence to add up the 666. He says that he is being absolutely truthful about the 106, if this is the case, then he would have to be far below the average IQ.

He said, "The artists want an unfiltered presentation of their views?"

In my April 27 comment I said, "Bottoms is back-peddling when he denies calling Thompson anti-Semitic, and says he leaves that up to the reader to decide. Look what it says on page 145, of The Colorful Apocalypse ?" This is where he makes the reference, "Thompson?s anti-Semitic rants ?"

In one of his April 27 messages, Bottoms' commented to this by stating, "When I said 'leave it to the reader to decide' I meant about the post I wrote about Thompson's anti-Semitism not the book."

Yet, the following was in the first of his posts on April 27,
"?that there was a satanic conspiracy (deeply involving the Masons) at the top of which were the Jews because, and I quote: 'Jews control all the money.' It wouldn't surprise me if his views are different now. And whether that is anti-Semitic is up to a reader to decide. He absolutely said it, though. But, here is where it got tricky: in his view, as he told me more than once and as I tried to understand, the real Jews, the tribes of Israel, God?s chosen people, settled in Western Europe. To the best of my understanding the Jews as we now know them are from the tribes of Esau; in other words Jews as we know them are not the chosen people. People from Western Europe 'which is to say white people' are the chosen people. Whether any of this has embedded within it anti-Semitic or racist overtones is also up to the reader."

His statements here are directly referenced from pages 72-73 of his book. So you can see that both times that he said, 'leave it to the reader to decide,' he was referring to the book. So how is he now saying, "I meant about the post I wrote about Thompson's anti-Semitism not the book."

He could not remember what he had said a few hours earlier, and did not take the time to go back and look. With a memory this good, he has written an entire book.

Yes, let the reader decide. Who is telling the truth?

Bottoms' continues (April 27), "To me, Thompson did indeed anti-Semitically rant. To me, Thompson did say racist things also. That?s my truth. That is, after careful consideration, how I see it. To him, I'm sure he simply delivered his religious and cultural views on subjects. That's not fiction or fabrication. It's a writer expressing his own views and interpretations in a narrative of his travels and encounters? happens every day. ?"

His truth.

"Kox says that he showed me the swastika, but that is in no way how I remember it: The swastika was apparent and I noticed it. This is also not fiction or a fabrication. It is two people remembering and believing something different about a moment. I totally believe I'm right. I'm sure he totally believes he's right. ?"

Bottoms says, "It is two people remembering and believing something different." Why trust one's memory when he has the tapes? If he would listen to them, like he says he did, he would get it right.

"I used the tapes. What is being said, in other words, is that if I had written the story as the artists see it and speak it with no intrusion this would have been a great book. This is not their book; it's my book. ?it seems because there is only the artists versions and wrong versions."

These two artists do not claim infallibility, and do not expect everyone to agree with them, but only expect fair and honest treatment. If you do not like what we are doing and do not agree with what we are doing, that is your prerogative. But, do not say we are doing something that we are not doing.

Yes it is a "terrible controversy that has reared its head like an ugly monster." That monster is just as ugly if it is devouring a person in relative obscurity or in the midst of a thriving metropolis. A monster is no less a monster due to the size of its audience.

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Product Details

ISBN:
9780226066851
Author:
Bottoms, Greg
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Subject:
General
Subject:
History - General
Subject:
Artists, Architects, Photographers
Subject:
Art, american
Subject:
Spirituality in art
Subject:
Christianity - History - Social Issues
Subject:
General Religion
Subject:
Folk & Outsider Art
Subject:
History : General
Subject:
Art, American -- 20th century.
Subject:
Art-Folk Art
Subject:
Folk Art
Copyright:
Edition Description:
1
Publication Date:
20070331
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
198
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Folk Art
Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
Religion » Christianity » Church History » General
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » General

The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art Used Hardcover
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Product details 198 pages University of Chicago Press - English 9780226066851 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Driven by painful memories of a schizophrenic brother who had visions and turned to Christian fundamentalist thinking, Bottoms (Angelhead: My Brother's Descent into Madness) sought out religious outsider artists, hoping to discover whether artistic expression helps relieve the suffering of visionaries who hover between madness and ecstasy. He writes thoughtfully of his quest, which takes him first to Georgia to visit Paradise Gardens, a four-acre Christian art environment replete with biblical quotes and apocalyptic predictions created by the late Rev. Howard Finster. In South Carolina, Bottoms interviews William Thomas Thompson, a paralyzed ex-millionaire who was inspired by an apocalyptic vision to paint a 300-foot mural called 'Revelation Revealed.' In Wisconsin, the author calls on painter and sculptor Norbert Kox, once a member of the Outlaw biker gang and now a born-again Christian who lives in an abandoned store and creates savage critiques of organized religion. Although the art Bottoms sees is not to his liking, and the artists' politics are far to the right of his own, he presents sensitive vignettes. His poignant book, imbued with troubling thoughts of his brother's illness and his own uneasiness about his motives in seeking out marginalized artists, ends on a positive note: the creative process does indeed have life-affirming powers." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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