Disenfranchised, self-taught, passionate and fueled by longings and dreams, outsider artists privately construct unbridled and vivid imageries, without regard for convention. Alienation and discontent are the sources of their creativity. We can easily rally around the stereotypical poor old rural black Southerner driven by religious fervor and/or emotional strife, whose artistic sources are unknowable, who must create for unknown reasons, and who seems guided by grace. Although religion, alienation, and trauma fairly characterize the beginnings of many self-taught artists, others are simply making ends meet, making sense of the world on their own terms. It is from this working outside of the mainstream that a new world often emerges through a seeming simplicity. However, the personalities of these artists and their art are perhaps inversely complex – and, like their home state of Florida, as diverse. Vernacular objects, which were never intended as art but as informational and even utilitarian objects, have helped define the Sunshine State.... Perhaps no group of artists has shaped the awareness of modern Florida as has the Highwaymen, a self-taught cohort of African-American landscape painters who, from 1960 to 1980, left an indelible mark on the state’s culture. These unlikeliest of self-taught artists showered the state with their oil paintings of Florida as Paradise. Social marginalization was more of a challenge than a barrier to these young and audacious, if not brazen, painters as they hopefully traversed the state during Jim Crow segregation, during the height of the Civil Rights movement... Aesthetics is concerned with the nature and philosophy of beauty, so consequently definitions are always up for renewal. Having gotten beyond representation as a measure of artistic success and beyond the rationalization of art-for-art’s-sake and the view of abstraction as ersatz expression, it is possible and fulfilling to imagine, along with these contemporary folk artists, to recognize through their labor and passion, things essentially human. These artists express themselves in ways that are unabashedly content driven, while letting the forms sort themselves out – but not primarily in theoretical or self-referential ways. They create in ways that are relevant to what it means to be fully alive. Indeed, they are survivors of the material world...The self-taught work is always on the fringes of art and life with little, if any, support. No institutions have given any of them a stamp of approval, and the artists themselves generally do not care to be certified anyway. Since the self-taught are not part of any school or movement, they have no tradition to work their ways out of or into. With an irreverent regard for material, plastic values, and the concerns of professional and academic art, self-taught artists generally remain raw and elemental in their style of representation, comfortable in not knowing how to draw the proverbial straight line. Composition may be a foreign concept and color more a function of fun than theory. The point is not technical rendering. They are interested in creating a world in which they want to live, examining the one in which they have lived, or exploring the one in which they do live. Idiosyncrasies, if not personal turmoil, typically inform their imagery, and without rules they are far removed from the conceits of the fine art world...The quintessential folk artist was George Voronovsky (1903-1982). He lived the last decade of his life on a railroad pension in one room in South Beach’s Colony Hotel. His was the top floor room visible in the chic print ads and television commercials shot along trendy Ocean Drive. However, when he died South Beach was just a strip of whitewashed hotels, and Voronovsky had been a solitary figure, alone among a sea of elderly Jewish retirees. No one saw the work that was tacked up throughout his room, painted with cheap watercolors and inexpensive brushes on pizza boxes that he had found in alleys. His visual recollections of his charmed youth in the Ukraine along with a myriad of decorations he fashioned out of refuse, such as stars from aluminum cans and flowers from paper, covered his walls and ceiling. Voronovsky reflected an idealized past that he preferred to his present reality. He just wanted to direct his mind’s wanderings; plain white walls allowed his thoughts to meander in painful directions. He found solace, not necessarily answers or even explanations, through his art making...An independent spirit and a need to create unite contemporary self-taught artists. Similarly, admirers of their art are not awed by skills and techniques, but rather by experience. It is in this artwork that the voices of the artists and the viewers become one in the humanity portrayed. For certain, Florida is fertile territory; the dream state elicits one’s imagination.