American Outsider Artist
OCT 15 - NOV 20, 2021
Collection of Original Artworks
Public Reception Oct. 22, 2021 6pm.
Bode’s original paintings, sculptures, drawings and poetry will be featured in an upcoming exhibition of his work October 15 - November 20, 2021 at Gallery Six13 in Rapid City, SD.
Sometimes the public is privileged to witness “a first.” Rodney Bode is one of those firsts—a one-of-a-kind, legitimate “outsider artist” whose vast collection of original paintings, sculptures, drawings, and poetry has never before been seen. Well, except by a few neighbors who know him best, and there aren’t very many of those.
How does something like this happen, where an entire collection of works has never been publicly seen? Where an artist remains completely unknown—in this case, until late in life? Bode turned 80 in 2021.
Artists like Rod Bode are self-taught, sometimes called “naïve” art makers. They do not attend art classes or gatherings, and have little or no contact with museums, galleries, or what we might call the “art world.” In Bode’s case, art education came in the form of books—especially books about Picasso and Cézannne, whose influence can be seen in his style. Bode’s personal interests are also reflected; his library features an extensive collection on many aspects of spirituality, including some of the dark arts.
When Bode and his wife, Renee, first came to rural South Dakota, they seemed to fit in well. Sure, he was a bit eccentric; they had moved from Idaho after Bode fell in love with South Dakota in Dances With Wolves. He was devoted to Renee, and to his menagerie of animals. He raised and sold Arabian stallions; he built a beautiful, cement geo-dome with mosaic accents; he studied Lakota ways; he placed a handful of metal sculptures outside. He was interesting and a bit shy, kind and true to his word; he was a recluse.
Still, no one among the widely scattered ranch neighbors was ready for what happened after Renee died. Bode’s inner world crashed down, and he began to exhibit symptoms of delusion and paranoia. As his beloved animals showed signs of neglect, Bode became aggressive toward his neighbors.
They called for help, and a mental health resource took Bode under its wing. Black Hills Advocates began working with the state hospital, as well as Bode’s family and neighbors, to piece together his story. They discovered the source of his imbalance—a combination of schizoaffective disorder and vascular dementia. They also discovered the full scope of his self-expression.
Bode is not the only outsider artist to experience extreme mental states; these artists often create work that reflects unconventional or fantasy concepts. Bode’s turbulent inner life obviously unfolded for decades—on canvas, wood, metal, and any other material he could find. His art was everywhere on his ranch. Tacked to the rafters, stacked against the walls, painted on the walls themselves. Portraits and still lifes and abstracts.
Now, it’s time to share Rod Bode’s immense talent with the world. It’s time for you to gaze into the piercing eyes that he has painted. It’s time for the conversation to go both ways.
Take a few moments to view the documentary film by Randal Iverson.
Rodney Bode is an American painter and sculptor whose life and art have remained outside the boundaries of culture. Born in 1941, and having lived most of his adult life in rural Idaho and South Dakota, Bode is an outsider artist whose vast collection of paintings and sculpture were only recently discovered after his institutionalization in the South Dakota state psychiatric hospital where he is being treated for schizophrenia. Bode will be 81 years old September, 2022.
The label ‘Outsider Art’ created by Jean Dubuffet in the 1940s, certainly describes Rod Bode’s prolific collections of paintings and sculpture. Created in the sparse rural areas in Idaho and the plains of western South Dakota, unseen by the public, Bode’s “self-taught” creations were certainly “produced beyond the boundaries of the mainstream art world.”
Special Thanks to Lee Geiger & Geiger Architecture, Natalie Slack, Megan Alyea, Randal Iverson, Ursula Hermacinski, Kristin Donnan, and Jenny Schmidt & Amber Wichmann of Black Hills Advocate.