In Spiritual American Trash, Greg Bottoms goes beyond the examination of eight “outsider artists” and inhabits the spirit of their work and stories in engaging vignettes. From the janitor who created a holy throne room out of scraps in a garage, to the lonely wartime mother who filled her home with driftwood replicas of Bible scenes, Bottoms illustrates the peculiar grace in madness.
Using facts as scaffolding he constructs intimate narratives around each artist, painting their poor and difficult circumstances on the outskirts of American society and demonstrating struggle’s influence on their largely undiscovered art. Both mournful and celebratory, these profiles embrace these compulsive creators with empathy and visceral sensory details. The artists profiled include: James Hampton, Geraldo Alfonso, Annie Hooper, Clarence Schmidt, Frank Van Zant (a.k.a. chief rolling mountain Thunder), Tressa “Grandma” Prisbrey, Frank Jones, and James Harold Jennings.
Each sentence reads with the cadence of a preacher who engages the art of the spirit and passion that often strays into obsession. Raised in the working-class South as a devout Christian with a deeply troubled brother, Bottoms understands how these eight outsiders “made art for a higher power and for themselves.”