Shelby Weaver Retrospective

March 30 - April 29, 2022

Shelby Weaver, "See the Moon" 1977

Shelby Weaver (U.S., b. 1953) is an outsider artist in a state where “outsider” has special meaning. He grew up in the small northern Utah town of Hooper. When asked what made him want to make art, he replied, “It was clouds, seeing shapes in clouds, saying, ‘I could make those’ – my mother all the while hanging laundry on the line.”

Weaver’s keen visual attunement comes more from observing life than fitting into any formal discipline. He is truly self-taught. When he was about eight, he covered a bunch of nightcrawlers with wild-colored paints and set them loose on a sheet of Masonite. As they wiggled and writhed, they created the painting. He has always given them artistic credit.

In his mid-twenties, he embarked on a five-month solo journey through Europe and the Middle East, ending up in India. Once he returned home, he continued to wear the loose-fitting Arabic clothing and turban he adopted on the road. He says the travels left him both edified and broken. The monumental paintings in this exhibit come from that period of his life and are full of wonder and pain. 

He has always created paintings, drawings, and sculpture; however, having to earn a living limited his time and funds for materials. For years, he refinished antique pianos and fine furniture. Bringing wood back to life was a joy but breathing lacquers and solvents permanently compromised his health.   

Health challenges brought Shelby and his wife, Theda, to Virgin, Utah in 2010 where they eventually moved onto an old farmstead. Many of his found-object sculptures were created out of rusted metal and old machine parts that had been discarded on the property. Theda passed away in July 2021. Since then, Shelby has jettisoned most of his worldly possessions and lives a monk-like lifestyle. He refers to himself as an introverted isolationist. These days he finds joy in watching fine classic films and listening to a diverse array of music. 

SUMA is proud to have accessioned several of his paintings, directly supporting a strategic goal of diversifying the permanent collection by including more outsider artists. Outsider art is a term used to refer to art made by self-taught artists. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. Special thanks to Hal Cannon and Teresa Jordan for their relationship with Shelby and this significant donation to the museum.


Image Credit:

Shelby Weaver (U.S., b. 1953)
See the Moon, 1977
Acrylic on Canvas, 69 x 96 in.
SUMA, Gift of Hal Cannon and Teresa Jordan, 2021