REM's Michael Stipe talks about his incredible collection of outsider art

According to the Tate Britain, the term "Outsider Art" describes art "that has a naïve quality, often produced by people who have not trained as artists or worked within the conventional structures of art production." The long-running Outsider Art Fair in New York City, taking place now through Sunday, is the hub of this genre where work by emerging artists and the masters is exhibited and changes hands. REM's Michael Stipe has been deep into Outsider Art since the 1980s, featuring artwork from the likes of Howard Finster and Juanita Rogers on album covers and in music videos. Stipe is showing (and selling) pieces from his incredible collection at this year's fair. From an interview in ARTNews:

ARTnews: Who were some of your early teachers in this context?

Stipe: The interest really came from Andy Nasisse, who taught sculpture at the University of Georgia. He had a huge collection of outsider artists' work here in Athens. I would go to his house and ask him questions about the stuff he had. He and I traveled to Mexico in 1987, all around the Yucatan Peninsula with Jeremy Ayers. The three of us traveled around for three weeks and visited artists and Toltec and Aztec ruins. I found artifacts on the ground—it was insane.

Through Andy Nasisse, I met Jim Herbert—he was not as interested in outsider artists, but when we became acquainted with R.A. Miller, he followed the band up to Gainesville [Georgia] to R.A.'s house, which was on this hill with all these whirligigs on it, like hundreds of whirligigs. At that point R.A. was just selling them locally. Jim followed the band up there to shoot footage for a video for us to turn into MTV. At the time, we were not creating video content that they were asking for. We just said, 'Fuck you, we're going to do our own thing.' Jim was so inspired by the footage that he got that he did an entire album-side-long film called Left of Reckoning, which you can find on YouTube. It's very beautiful. We decided to include it as a part of the [Outsider Art Fair exhibition] because it shows this environment at its absolute peak, with four handsome guys in our mid-20s wandering around. It's a beautiful Jim Herbert film. I'm so thrilled to have been able to collaborate with Jim as a filmmaker on many R.E.M. videos, but that one in particular is stunning.

ARTnews: Did you send it to MTV?

Stipe: Oh, yeah. And they showed it on the show on Sunday night that that was for indie music…

ARTnews: 120 Minutes?

Stipe: Yeah, I think it was. They wouldn't show it with their regular programing—it was too weird for them.

(via David Katznelson's The Signal)

Juanita Rogers, Untitled, n.d.