The American Visionary Arts Museum has been sharing the visions of artists for 20 years now. The new show, The Visionary Experience, Saint Francis to Finster, takes a look at what moves the artist. In introducing the exhibition during a press preview, Rebecca Hoffberger, AVAM’s founder, asked “Where does this inspiration come from?”
Editor’s note: This show has closed. A new yearlong show, The Big Hope, opened in Sept. 2015.
She co-curated the show with filmmaker Jodi Wille, who said she’s been coming to the Baltimore-based museum for 16 years. She has visited a number of visionary artists, and found inspiration herself from them and the museum. “They radically changed my life,” she said. “They changed my perspective on art and creativity.”
A couple of famous artists have work in the show, including Robert Crumb, Jimi Hendrix and even actor Terrence Howard.
At the center of the show are the otherworldly paintings of author and psychic Ingo Swann, and the Rev. Howard Finster, considered the most acclaimed intuitive artist of the 20th century. This year marks the centenary of his birth.
I found myself drawn to two Maryland artists. Bob Hieronimous of Owings Mills painted the Historic Views of Baltimore which hangs on the ramp leading into the museum’s exhibit spaces. A Western Maryland artist Claude Yoder carved the sweet animals that surround an iconic statue of St. Francis of Assisi, whose love of animals is legendary.
One of the charms of AVAM is the art on display in public spaces. These include one of Hieronimus’s art cars featuring portraits of American founders and a beautiful Stargate, made by Steve Heller of steel and car parts that frames Federal Hill. It is installed in the plaza by the Jim Rouse Visionary Center.
The most spectacular piece of art is the work of children who have created a mosaic that has been installed on all the concrete walls of AVAM. Even if you don’t go inside, you can stop and look at this glittering treasure. Students of the nearby Digital Harbor High School as well as incarcerated children created the piece just installed.
This new show is filled with inspiration and is inspiring too. But it is temporary. The Visionary Experience is at AVAM through August 30, 2015.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman