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Art Against the Odds: From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings

by Susan Goldman  Rubin

Published by Crown, 2004
48 pages
ISBN: 0-375-82406-5

Ages 9 - 14

Podcast featuring this book

From 1899 to 1930, Adolf Wölfli spent most of each day creating intricately detailed pencil drawings of a fantasy world he had imagined as a child. Through art, he escaped the misery of his life in the Waldau Mental Asylum in Switzerland to which he had been committed at age 31. His artwork is an example of one of the kinds of "outsider art" Rubin discusses, defined as visual art created by children and adults living under horrendous conditions. Some of the artists, like Wölfli, were patients in mental institutions. Others were captives in military prisons, internment and concentration camps, or modern-day prisons. A chapter is devoted to the art of slave quilts, and includes information on several people who made quilts, different techniques, and coded messages, as well as contemporary people who are carrying on family traditions. A final chapter focuses on child artists who make toys from the scraps they find in the trash, and students in a Bronx high school who create collective works of art based on books they're reading in class. Illustrated with color photographs of some of the artwork cited, Rubin's book is a testament to the transforming power of art. (KTH) ©2004 Cooperative Children's Book Center

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