It has been called many things - "Southern primitive" and "outsider" art, "visionary" and "self-taught" art. But the categorization is immaterial. The works in two exhibitions recently mounted by the Morris Museum of Art demonstrate the universal desire to create.
The exhibits, one of works by William O. Golding and the other of pieces by self-taught artists drawn from the Morris collection, showcase artists who refused to let limitations in available media or technical prowess keep them from acting on the creative impulse.
"It's funny because a lot of people say you have to know convention before you can break convention," said Tania Beasley, registrar and exhibitions coordinator at the Morris. "But somehow, these artists manage to break conventions without ever knowing and are able to develop their own distinctive styles."
Mr. Golding began his art career in 1932 at the age of 59. His work is a visual record of his 50 years at sea, which began when he was kidnapped at age 8 from Savannah's bustling waterfront and put to work as a cabin boy. When chronic bronchitis landed him in a hospital, Mr. Golding began to produce the detailed pencil and crayon drawings that became his second career.
"I think probably what I would like people to take away is an appreciation of the whimsical nature of the work and the detail," Ms. Beasley said, pausing in front of a cartoonlike sketch of ships chasing whales with an Arctic landscape in the background. "Also, I'd like people to think about the element of the human spirit that prevails in the work."
Around the corner, in a quiet corridor usually reserved for staid landscapes, there has been an explosion of color in paintings, sculpture and altered artifacts, some sophisticated and others simplistic. The exhibition marks the first time the museum's works by self-taught artists have been grouped in a single show.
Morris Museum Director Keith Claussen said the exhibition is a testament to the creative impulse.
"With these kinds of works, what we are celebrating is the exuberance of human expression," she said. "No matter what their skills are or what their capacity to express a personal vision is, these are artists willing to go all out. They have something inside that they really want to express.
"These works are important to the people that create them because they allow them to do that, to express what the want to say."
What: Maritime Memories: The Art of William O. Golding, and visionary art from the Morris Museum of Art's permanent collection
When: The Golding exhibition runs through Sept. 9. The visionary-art exhibition runs through Nov. 11.
Where: The Morris Museum of Art, 1 10th St.
Admission: $3 adults, $2 students and seniors (65 and older), no charge museum members and children 6 and younger with adult visitors. Admission free on Sunday.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.