Reviews for Art Against the Odds : From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 2004
Gr. 5-8. Rubin defines "outsider artists" as "children and adults who felt compelled to make different kinds of art despite living under the most awful conditions." In this unique overview, she profiles artists, who often have little or no training, and have suffered incarceration, war, racism, poverty, or mental illness while working. Included are teenage graffiti artists, Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, and slaves who made quilts patterned with hidden directions to the Underground Railroad. Readers may be frustrated that many of the nicely reproduced images don't match up with the works discussed on the page. But written in clear, accessible language, Rubin's stories about artists who created "against the odds" are gripping, and they show how making art can have a strong, unexpected impact not only on the viewer but also on the artist: "I used to think my skin was dark brown, but I can see now I am a variety of color," says incarcerated painter Charles Mosby. There aren't any notes, but a list of further resources closes this powerful, intriguing book. ((Reviewed February 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Fall
This introduction to outsider art explores artwork--much of which is reproduced in full color--by prisoners, children, slaves, and the mentally ill. Historically and geographically diverse in scope, the book would nevertheless have benefited from an opening or concluding chapter on outsider art and its relationship to established artistic traditions. The images are well reproduced throughout. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2004 February #1
"Outsider" art-that made by prisoners, the mentally ill, children, and women-form Rubin's subject, and she handles it fairly well in so small a volume. She aims her text at middle-graders, and the writing is not always smooth, however, she tackles a lot in four chapters. All self-taught, the subjects include the art of Henry Darger and Adolf Wöffli, both schizophrenics; art made by those imprisoned, including convicts, children in concentration camps and in Japanese internment in the US during WWII; quilts made by slaves and by free women as narrative and symbol; and art made by young people from the South Bronx to Uganda. While she does make clear how art can be made in the harshest of circumstances, she doesn't address head-on the obvious need for human beings to make art no matter how desperate or squalid the situation. Many illustrations prove the one-picture/thousand-words equation. (Nonfiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2004 August/September
The unique subject and compelling stories will attract readers, but design problems detract from the overall quality of this work. The author introduces readers to a number of children and adult artists whose work is a reaction to the horrific conditions in which they find themselves. Straightforward text describes the artists and their motivations. Additional color illustrations would have made this work more satisfying. It is disappointing that many pieces of artwork are described, but not shown. Despite its flaws, social studies and art classes will find useful information here. Bibliography. Index. Additional Selection. Amy Short, Library Media Specialist, Westford (Massachusetts) Academy © 2004 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2004 March
Gr 5 Up-An engaging survey of outsider art, encompassing the works of patients, slaves, concentration- and internment-camp prisoners, and disadvantaged children living in modern blighted urban areas and developing nations. Each chapter focuses on one of these groups and includes both black-and-white and full-color photographs of the drawings, collages, paintings, toys, and quilts described in the text. The vivid, resilient life force radiating from these works contrasts sharply with the unimaginably bleak conditions under which they were created. Although Rubin does not shrink from detailing the casual violence of a modern ghetto or the cruelty of life in a Civil War prison camp, neither does she let it overshadow the vibrance and quality of the art that emerged from them. She merely makes the very cogent, inspiring argument that under inhumane circumstances, people are moved to protect and nurture their humanity in whatever way they can. Rubin has emphasized works by child artists, which lends a pleasing, egalitarian subtext to the whole. If young slaves can quilt maps to freedom, and girls in concentration camps can draw moving accounts of their lives, the book seems to say, then you can, too. Indeed, this artwork may speak more directly to some readers than the works on display in fine-arts museums. Back matter includes an excellent set of print references (those appropriate for younger readers are marked) as well as a good selection of links to blessedly stable URLs. This unique offering is a top priority for most libraries.-Sophie R. Brookover, Mount Laurel Library, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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