I am not a visual artist. I am a writer. I am also a collector of Maine “outsider” art. The artists I collect may be outsiders in the art world, in the sense that most of them have had no formal training, nor gained recognition through traditional routes, but they are “insiders” in the sense that their inspiration comes from deep inside themselves, with filters or barriers that are friable or just plain non-existent. Like the earth’s thin crust at Yellowstone, what’s below simply bubbles out, leaving the viewers to marvel at the displays, humbled by the virtuosity of naturenature when it comes to humans as well, and to the forces within them.

bryant 2 in container1copy copy

Ken Bryant, Container, acrylic, 12 x 12 in.

bryant 3 odd couple copy

Ken Bryant, Odd Couple, acrylic, 18 x 24 in.

bryant 4 green room man sees woman(7) copy

Ken Bryant, Green Room, acrylic, 18 x 24 in.

bryant 5 head off smaller res copy

Ken Bryant, Head Off, acrylic, 24 x 30 in.

The art of Ken Bryant, who died much too young (at forty-eight), is one such display. His art is so guileless, so close to the unconscious, and so close to revealing the unknown and the unsaid, that it has the effect of causing my own consciousness to dissolve (as well as it can) in the act of looking at it. I am grateful to Bryant that he was able to produce as much art as he did, and to Natasha Mayers who encouraged his talent at the Waterville Social Club. Viewing Bryant’s art is like waking up from a dream and trying to remember what you dreamed, and then there it is, on the wall. It may be another person’s dream, but it is also your own.

bryant 6 crying copy

Ken Bryant, Face with Red Tears, acrylic, 12 x 12 in.

bryant 7 cheesecake (smiling guy)(6) copy

Ken Bryant, Cheesecake, acrylic, 18 x 24 in.

bryant 8 ken your heart acrylic collagePXL 20240303 150254450 copy

Ken Bryant, Your Heart, acrylic and collage, 18 x 24 in.

“When I paint, my mind seems to go blank. My troubles leave me for a while,” Ken said.

Bryant was born in Thorndike, Maine, the sixth of eight children, and the youngest son of Joe and Bea Bryant of Bryant’s Stove and Music, a wondrous store/collection of vintage stoves, appliances, machinery, mechanical toys, and a vast assortment of other toys and objects, collected for their whimsy. He and his five brothers made up the Bryant unicycle act that appeared in the yearly variety show, Fourth of July celebration, and parades in Belfast, Brooks, and Pittsfield. He attended the University of Maine at Orono from 1980 to 1984.

bryant 12 shooting gallery(4) copy

Ken Bryant, Shooting Gallery, acrylic, 18 x 24 in.

bryant 11 Frances copy

Ken Bryant, Frances, acrylic, 24 x 30 in.

bryant 10 mother10 copy

Ken Bryant, Mother, acrylic, 14 x 20 in.

Ken said: “I kind of hope that when I’m dead and gone I’ll have a legacy of artwork that people in the future will like and remember me by.”


Image at top: Ken Bryant, Men on Birds, acrylic, 18 x 24 in.