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TO JAN. 11, 2004

A distant relation of mine who’d sustained a head injury in the war once likened losing your mind to walking along a beach: The tide ebbs and flows, and sometimes you’re in the water and sometimes you’re on dry land. That image would probably have made a lot of sense to painter Walter Inglis Anderson, a lifelong waterman who found himself straddling a lot of lines. Both legitimately mad (schizophrenic, depressive, alcoholic) and occupied by endearing crackpot enthusiasms (Gurdjieff, pelicans, the language of animals), Anderson was formally trained in commercial and fine art, but his radiant watercolors display a Burchfieldian outsider vibrance. Equally the product of bedevilment and design, Anderson’s densely patterned, overfull compositions (Coots and Waves is pictured) suggest a splendid talent for decoration residing in a mind scorched by the flame of the invisible world. And even if you never make it to Ocean Springs, Miss., home of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, you can view much of its collection in this traveling exhibition, which is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily to Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004, at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, 900 Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Glenn Dixon)