Last week Colgate had the privilege of hosting writer Greg Bottoms in several different academic settings. A professor of creative, non-fiction writing at the University of Vermont, Bottoms has published a variety of short stories including “Sentimental,” “Heartbroken Rednecks,” a memoir entitled Angelhead and The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art, the latter of which he spoke about Wednesday as part of the visiting artist lecture series.
Bottoms was intrigued by stories he heard of men and women who pursued art like someone would scratch an itch, with no material gain in mind. He embarked on a series of visits to Christian visionary artists with the goal of simply looking, listening and recording.
In many cases he discovered that the artist had at some point undergone great suffering, such as the death of a loved one, which had opened his or her mind to the Christian faith.Bottoms sees the intrigue of such phenomena, and drew a link between this and his own experience growing up with a schizophrenic brother.
The following day he focused on this experience, captured in Angelhead. This time Bottoms was presenting to the English department and consequently used his writing style as a focal point.The excerpts he shared reflected a poignancy and sober understanding of his youth that was more salient than his discussion of Outsider Art. As he read about the brutal objectification of women without offending, and helplessness of individual marginalization in suburbia without whining, that the genius of Bottoms’ writing truly struck readers.
“[They are] short stories to the point of poetry in prose — necessary narratives out of chaos,” he said of his writing.
Copies of both books are available in the bookstore and at Case library. As Bottoms expressed, he is the anthropologist of his own life, and the results are compelling.