Self-taught art (sometimes called outsider art or folk art) is made up of paintings, drawings, sculptures, assemblages, outdoor constructions and other items created by people who have had little or no formal training in art and who produce (or at least began by producing) art without regard to mainstream recognition or the marketplace. Interest in the field has increased tremendously since the beginning of the 1990s, and there are now several major periodicals, numerous large yearly auctions, and dozens of museums and galleries devoted to the field. This important analysis of the art form in twentieth century America begins by explaining the emergence of self-taught art, and introducing the reader to key aspects. The second chapter gives comparative studies of trends in self-taught art divided by gender, race and region. It further examines such issues as education, employment, and the circumstances under which artists became active. The main body of the work consists of 1,319 biographies of artists, providing for each such data as dates, location, origins, education, employment, style, media, themes and unusual characteristics.
Another section deals with 44 categories of self-taught art that include media such as collage, painting, pottery, relief carving of wood, sculpture of stone, sculpture of metal and stitchery; styles such as abstract, rudimentary and surrealistic; and themes such as animals, death, humour, politics, religion, vehicles and words. A lengthy discussion and integration of findings concludes the main text.