About a year ago my husband, Steven, came across a couple of intricately detailed ceramic boats at Creative Growth, in Oakland, on the desk of Creative Growth's director Tom di Maria. Steven brought them home, and showed them to our friend Ryan Conder, who has a gallery and clothing store called South Willard, on 3rd St., in Hollywood. They thought this work, by Robert Rapson, would make a great show. We drove to Creative Growth a couple of weeks ago and brought back 18 of these boats. And now, you can see the boats on display at South Willard. Ryan took photos of each boat on both sides and the surprisingly informative undersides. Each boat is a ceramic portrait of a specific boat, with all the details included. It's a wonderfully obsessive kind of art. Rapson lives in New Zealand, and finds making the boats at a local art center is his way of staving off clinical depression. He was discovered by Tom di Maria at an outsider art show in NYC. Rapson doesn't see himself as an outsider except to the extent that he's self taught. The show is on from June 27-July 28 2015. Except as noted I've taken the photos.

Above: The M.V. Ancerville in the foreground, the Le Levanti, and the Princess Patricia.

Above and below: The Wahine Union Steamship. Photo below by Ryan Conder.

Above: The Sea Princess

Above: The Seven Seas Navigator

Above and below: The Rangitiki from New Zealand Shipping Company. Photo below by Ryan Conder.

Above: The Princess Patricia

Above: The Regina Magna, 2007. I particularly like the ones with the steam coming out.

Above and below: The Ratoello, an Italian ship. Photos below by Ryan Conder.

Above: Detail of the Olympia, photo by Ryan Conder.


Creative Growth Art Center is a place where artistic adults with various mental and physical disabilities can go and make art. Some of those artists, such as Judith Scott, Dwight Mackintosh, and Dan Miller have drawn the attention of the larger art world. Scott had a recent retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. All the artists sell their work at the in-house gallery. The work is wonderful...full of energy, color, uninhibited, obsessive, and personal. 

Above and below: Images of Judith Scott's retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, as seen in the NY Times article. The exhibit was curated by Matthew Higgs of White Columns in NYC, who has been a huge supporter of Creative Growth. Judith Scott was born with Downs Syndrome, and became deaf from Scarlet Fever as an infant. Because her deafness was undiagnosed, she was regarded as uneducable and institutionalized for 35 years, until her twin sister Joyce took over her guardianship, and brought her to Creative Growth. More about their story here. At Creative Growth, a visiting fiber artist, Sylvia Seventy, sparked the connection for Scott to working in this medium, and she spent the next 18 years making her work. Photos of this exhibit by Ruth Fremson for the NY Times.

When we visited Creative Growth recently, to pick up the boats for the South Willard exhibition, I spent some time with artists who are making work there now. I've taken the photos, except the ones from the Creative Growth web site. 

Above: Maureen Clay 

Above and below: Sallie Williams with her dog drawings.

Above: Kim Clark drawing characters from Inside Out.

Above: William Scott. Scott's work refers to an idealized time and place. His work is in the permanent collections of MOMA and the Studio Museum of Harlem. 

Above and below: Eleanor Chackee with her hooked rug. Rickie Algarva sits to her right.

Above: John Martin at work on one of his tool pieces. One of them is shown below. 

Above: Stephanie Nguyen

Above: Crochet work covering donated chair. Work in progress by Lisa Craib.

Above and below: Monica Valentine is placing colored beads on a shaped styrofoam block. Valentine is completely blind, and can differentiate the colors through their temperature. She told me blue is the coldest, green is cool, yellow warm, and red the hottest, much as we are accustomed to associating temperature with color. 

Above and below: Daniel Derain Gardiner, in the foreground, is also blind. He's using a punch hole technique to make his textile piece.

Above: Some of the artists design these rugs, but don't like fabricating them. Other artists who like the process are paid for their time to do the fabrication. 

Above: Christine Argyres holding a tapestry she's designed. 

Above: Angela Villalobos with her hooked rug.

Above: This textile by Ruth Stafford has been made into a bag, available, when I visited, at the Creative Growth store.

Above: The ceramic area

Above: Work by Gina Damerell available at the store.

Above: Painted ceramic spoons by Mayra Gonzalez at the store.

Above and below: Work by Dan Hamilton, who's shown below working on a carpet for another artist. The designer of the carpet is George Wilson. The following image is one of Wilson's paintings.

Above: George Wilson

Above and below: Drawings by Dan Miller, whose work is in the collection of MOMA. He uses letters and words to create his layered drawings.

Above: William Tyler working on a marker drawing. Many of his drawings feature two men, versions of Tyler and his twin brother. You can read more about Tyler here. He's been working at Creative Growth since 1978. 

Below: William Tyler drawing

Below: You can see a video Tyler did for Pharrell William's i am OTHER You Tube channel about a cat and a chicken going swimming together at this link. I am OTHER did a whole series on Creative Growth artists that can be seen here.

Above: Dwight Mackintosh drawing. Mackintosh passed away in 1999. His work is in the permanent collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Below: Dwight Mackintosh designed this poster for Lollapalooza 1994.

Above: Sher-ron Freeman

Above: VJ Williamson

Above and below: Edwin Zalenski drawing trucks with markers.

Above: Lulu Sotelo working on a pleated shade.

Above: Susan Janow

Below: Laura Jo Pierce's painting, used as the invitation to the current Creative Growth exhibition "Parting Is Such Sorrow Until We Meet Again Tomorrow", which runs from June 25 2015-July 30 2015. This post, and our discovery of Creative Growth, is due to our friends Jonathan and Valerie...thank you both!