I had the opportunity to meet Alma Rumball’s family when I was in Ontario in July. I had been corresponding with Wendy Oke, who is married to Alma’s nephew, Colin. They have a massive collection of Alma’s paintings, and I was lucky to see the originals.
The best part of seeing an original collection is that you get to see everything – what came before the pieces we know and what came after. Firmament – the painting shown above – was done in the 1950s, before Alma’s spirit came to her. I was surprised to see how radically different it was from the others. It was not drawn, but painted in lavish, lush, thick brush strokes. In a word – gorgeous.
The image below, is one of Alma’s paintings from the 1970s. It is called Ego-and-Soul. It was done after her stroke, when she was no longer able to do the fine-detailed pencil drawings. They also have that luxurious quality of her early work, and I marvel at how unique those drawings “in between” came about.
I have been reading a bit more about art created under spiritualistic inspiration. It is fairly well-documented, and there are diverse opinions about its origin. Some hold that it is merely an alibi – something that gives the artist permission to make art. Others maintain that the artists created their work while under the influence of a someone or something from the spirit world.
I don’t have an answer. Any thoughts?
I want to tell you an important story about outsider artists in Los Angeles. For four years, a group of independent filmmakers in Los Angeles followed the lives and progress of several artists from LA’s Skid Row, which has the largest population of homeless people in the USA.
Some artists find their art supplies in dumpsters and draw on old paper bags. Many joined art workshops staffed by artists and social workers and are given paint and canvasses, as well as the creative support and guidance to create stunning and therapeutic works of art. Some artists have gone on to show their work in downtown Los Angeles galleries.
The documentary shows us how art can change lives. One artist said that coming to the workshop was the only reason she has to get up in the morning. Another has been admitted on scholarship to the art school at the University of California, Berkeley. Sadly, his immigration status prevents him from attending. Art has given their lives meaning and us an opportunity to appreciate their talent.
The film is called Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists. It has been shown at film festivals throughout the USA, and has won a long list of awards. The producers have been offered distribution on PBS stations, and they are thrilled that the film will not be available to millions of viewers. Humble Beauty will be shown on PBS on September 15th. Watch for it on your local PBS station!
The filmmakers are asking for our help. They do not receive payment for these broadcasts, and there are considerable expenses in getting the film prepared for PBS standards. It must be re-edited for time requirements, broadcast insurance must be bought, music rights must be extended and promotional materials prepared. You can help by making a donation (by PayPal) at their campaign website. I did.