(Above) Philosophy Flights, oil on panel, 2003; 9” x 9”: Howard Scott Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) Home, acrylic on panel, n.d.; 11” x 8.5”: Howard Scott Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) Dream of the West, acrylic on panel, n.d.; 14” x 11”: Howard Scott Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) Song of Holy Hill, oil on panel, 2003; 10” x 10”: Howard Scott Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) Soldier of Fortune, acrylic on panel, 2008; 10” x 8”: Philip Slein Gallery • Click image for larger view
(Above) Shitheel, acrylic on panel, 2006; 11” x 11”: Philip Slein Gallery • Click image for larger view
(Above) Dick Weed, acrylic on panel, 2006; 11” x 11”: Philip Slein Gallery • Click image for larger view
(Above) Buche, acrylic on panel, 2008; 24” x 18”: Howard Scott Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) Mystery of Sleep, acrylic on panel, n.d.; 27” x 36”: Tory Folliard Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) Untitled (Reindeer #5), acrylic on wood, n.d.; 11-3/4” x 10”: Tory Folliard Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) Untitled (Hood), oil on panel, 2003; 24” x 19”: Tory Folliard Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) Chicago Girl, oil on panel, n.d.; 12” x 9”: Tory Folliard Gallery • Click image for larger view

(Above) VOX, acrylic on panel, n.d.; 36” x 48”: Tory Folliard Gallery • Click image for larger view


FRED STONEHOUSE IS A REGULAR GUY. TO SEE HIM IN PERSON YOU MIGHT THINK HIM just the guy down the street—someone you might bump into at The Home Depot.

To look at his art and then imagine the creator is another subject altogether. The process looked at from this angle might give you the impression the man is odd, scary or possibly suffering from some sort of mental psychosis. If there is a dark side to Stonehouse, he keeps it chained and well-contained in an escape proof room of his mind. In drips and drabs, he lets the demon out in a unique and very private “work-release” program inside his studio. There, he enters into a dialogue with his dark side—an arrangement he has kept for over 20 years now. At the end of his painting session, Stonehouse is able to put the dark little fella back in the bottle, so to speak, and emerge to become family man, flea market scrounger, beer drinking buddy, regular Joe and loyal friend to many.

Fred’s art is sought after and bought by major collectors, held in major museums, and has been used in major magazines as illustrations. I asked Fred if he would consent to an interview about his art. Of course, he agreed.

AM) Hi Fred! The last time I saw you was at the Outsider Art Fair in New York, and that prompted me to start this off with this question: “Who is your favorite self-taught artist? OK, well, your top two or three?”

FS) Ramirez and Wolfli seem like obvious choices, but I think that my love of stone carving leads me to lean towards William Edmondson (1874 - 1951). The favorite at any particular time varies, but I always come back to the greats.

AM) I know you like folk art, self-taught art and such because I have seen your personal collection. Has folk art influenced your own personal work in some ways?

FS) Folk and outsider art has influenced me tremendously. I am definitely drawn to the beauty and emotional honesty of the untutored hand, but I think that outsiders have a way of resolving visual issues and inventing unconventional solutions that I find remarkable.

AM) Your paintings have this nightmarish sense about them. I mean that in a good way. They are really beautifully painted but quite deranged. Does this come from living your entire life in Wisconsin?

FS) Maybe. Wisconsin has this weirdly extended period at dawn and dusk; really drawn out. It’s like living in perpetual twilight at times. Maybe that leaves a mark. That sense of liminality is akin to dream states. That could explain the tradition of Midwestern surrealism as well as Wisconsin’s long line of crackpots and serial killers.

AM) I think I heard you say that the key figure in your paintings are really self-portraits. If I am right here, do you use this effigy of yourself as a kind of statement on society's ills?

FS) I suppose that my use the self-portrait is a handy constant; like a ‘control’ off of which I can bounce whatever I might be contemplating at the time: politics, personal stresses, art, etc.

AM) I think your work has this feeling of carnival sideshow banners, maybe old magazine ads, odd stuff. What kind of cultural mixtures influence your work?

FS) I definitely respond to a certain kind of bygone vernacular visual tradition. Maybe that’s nostalgia. Somebody said “Nostalgia is a thief who breaks into your house and leaves the jewels behind.” I don’t even know what that means, but I like the sound of it.

AM) I love that too! So, what's your daily routine Fred. Do you like to work late at night?

FS) I was a night worker until I had kids. Now, I’m definitely a morning guy. I’m pretty useless after 7 pm.

AM) And lastly, your work has been collected by people all over the world, and in many public and private collections. So, what’s on your easel now?

FS) I’m finishing up a series of bat paintings for the Midwestern Blab! show at Columbia College/Anchor Graphics in Chicago that opens June 18th and runs through July 22. Some of these are tied to the series of Shaman/Shapeshifter paintings that I will be exhibiting with the Philip Slein Gallery in St. Louis this coming September. The bat theme has a funny story attached to it. I’ll tell you over some beers when I see you at Slein this fall.

AM) You got it Fred. You never know—I just might show up for the Blab! show June 18. I owe you a cold one anyway after this good interview. Later!


All images above © Fred Stonehouse and courtesy of Philip Slein Gallery, Tory Folliard Gallery and Howard Scott Gallery.

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