A great review in Folk Art Messenger

detour art – outsider, folk art and visionary environments coast to coast

art and photographs from the collection of Kelly Ludwig


review in by Scott Rothstein
Folk Art Messenger, the Journal of the Folk Art Society of America
Vol. 20, No.1 Spring 2008

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Kelly Ludwig’s book, “detour art”, is like a joyful party. Everything about it is celebratory. Her excitement for the artists and their work is evident and infectious.  Page after page honors dynamic individuals, each with a vision all their own.  The artworks featured in “detour art” are all from Ludwig’s collection and it is evident that the author is drawn to the jubilant. 

A graphic designer as well as a photographer, Ludwig not only photographed the sites and the artists, she designed “detour art” as well.  This book is truly a reflection of her vision; we can see and feel the passion of this collector.

“detour art” is primarily a visual archive.  It opens with a short introduction and a general discussion of relevant terms, such as “Outsider Art” and “Visionary Art”.  After that, the chapters are organized by region – the Midwest, the South, the Southwest, the West and Appalachia.  At the end, there is reference information as well as reading and resource lists. 

The works of 99 artists are found in “detour art”. Each artist entry includes photographs of their work and a brief text.  A few artists have three pages or more.  Most of the artists included will be familiar to the Outsider art enthusiast. The great visionary painters and carvers are acknowledged with features on Mose Tolliver, Purvis Young, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Thornton Dial, Lillian and Linvel Barker and Homer Green.  Many well known sites are also presented – such as Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain, Sam Mireles’s Birdhouse Yard Show, and Vollis Simpson’s Windmill Park. 

One of the most charming aspects of “detour art” is the portraits.  A charismatic quality is seen in the faces of all of these artists.  Ludwig’s photograph of Reverend Hermond Dennis is strong and beautifully composed.  She presents his image with dignity and respect.  There is also a captivating portrait of Cleveland Turner.  Smiling and waving to the camera, he is shown next to a bike that he has adorned with a cascade of plastic flowers. Color and vitality define his work and even his bike is worthy of attention. 

If there is anything negative about this book, it is that there is not more of it. Yet Ludwig can hardly be faulted on this point, since she maintains a website of the same name with a list of over 3500 artists from around the world.  This site, www.detourart.com, is monumental, another example of the love and dedication she has for these artists and their art. 

Ludwig’s commitment to artists who are often overlooked by the mainstream art world is praiseworthy. “detour art”, on line or in book form, supports a group of truly inspired and exceptional artists.