"Folk Artists are more intent on conveying a message to the public at large, be it the religious nature of man, the joys of life, or more poignantly, the emotional and social distress they harbor. For the Folk Artist, meaning precedes technique." -- The Dial Fall/Winter 2007


Together for over 40 years, Steve and Marsha Carleson began collaborating in college at Southern Illinois University. Upon graduation, Dallas, Texas was the next stop where photography, woodworking, and restoring a 1950’s home in Dallas’ initial suburb after WW II filled their daily lives. In 1983, they returned to Henry County, Illinois for the rural life. They found opportunities in Bishop Hill, Illinois to raise a daughter, restore an 1870’s home, see their garden mature, and operate the adjacent Outsider Gallery.

Steve Carleson is a sum total of his experiences. He said, “My art is an expression of the people, places, and things that shape my view of the planet. I am a child of the1950’s. I feel the form of a box neatly conveys the world of middle class Christian standards and values into which I was born and bred.” Circumstances and time have greatly altered his perception. He said, “My creations are dark, irreverent, often cynical displays utilizing images of icons of our confused new age. These works are filled with humor and snippets of my private life. Though deeply personal, my work is easy to grasp.”

A therapist in her early professional life, Marsha came to art after a vision loss left her partially sighted. As an Illinois State Artisan for over 20 years, her work consists of natural materials incorporated into her handmade paper vessels, found objects, sculpture, and notecards. She shared a quote from Annie Leibovitz: “My thoughts about my work are ‘what I lack, I shellac’. The last original thought was the second guy out of the cave." Steve and Marsha’s work is available for purchase in the BCA gift shop.