Introduction: Roger Cardinal 1940-2019

Introduction: Roger Cardinal 1940-2019

Article by  Ann Oppenhimer 

This issue of the Folk Art Messenger, #98, December 2019, is a Memorial Tribute to Roger Cardinal (1940-2019) who was an originating figure in the history of self-taught art, visionary art, folk art, and most notably, Outsider Art. Roger was such an important and influential person whose life, ideas, writing and personal relationships touched so many that we felt that a special commemorative version of the Folk Art Messenger should be published in order to properly celebrate his life and his memorable accomplishments.

We asked those who knew him best to write a short (or long) piece expressing their thoughts, telling their stories, recounting the variety of experiences and contacts they had had with Roger – as a way of remembering. We also asked for photographs from his friends and family, and we went through old scrapbooks ourselves finding more than we had even imagined.

We searched old Folk Art Messengers to find articles that Roger had written for us. He would kindly email us with a query – “Would you like to have a book review – or an obituary?” Of course, we were thrilled to have something he wrote. His contributions were always striking, unusual, informative, sensitive and perfectly written – no editing needed! His writing was like poetry. As the English are fond of saying – “Brilliant!”

We have reprinted excerpts from six of the book reviews he wrote for the Messenger over the years, as well as excerpts from two of his symposium speeches, one at the Passionate Visions of the American South symposium (1993) in New Orleans, and the other from Altered States, Altered Worlds (1992) at Creative Growth in Oakland. We also reprinted the essay he wrote nearly 20 years after his book, Outsider Art, was published in 1972. “What is Meant by Outsider Art Today?” is from the Folk Art Messenger, Fall 1991; it is still vibrant, meaningful, thought-provoking and applicable today.

When you read again Roger’s words written from 1990 to 2012, I think you will be amazed at his skillful and insightful compositions. He was so generous to share them with us and with you, our readers.

No one can be happy all the time, but whenever I was with Roger, he was always upbeat, pleasant, friendly, open-minded. Sparkling with a mischievous smile, he enjoyed a good laugh and a good time. He enjoyed the moment. Possibly the most famous person I ever knew, he was never pretentious or self-assuming. He was self-effacing, humble, always gracious. He was real.

Roger was such a kind and generous person, and we heard that word – KIND – over and over from those who wrote tributes to him. Roger Cardinal will be sorely missed, but we were lucky to have known him. His contributions will live on.

Roger Cardinal is survived by his wife, Agnes, their sons Daniel and Felix, and six grandchildren.

ANN OPPENHIMER is the Executive Director of the Folk Art Society of America

As seen in the Folk Art Messenger:

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