Hope lives at Baltimore’s AVAM

Dan Latrell's Love is Forever windows overlooking Federal Hill are dedicated to his wife Connie Walker and her family.

Dan Patrell’s Love is Forever windows overlooking Federal Hill are dedicated to his wife Connie Walker and her family at the American Visionary Art Museum in downtown Baltimore.

Filmmaker John Waters in his younger days was captured on film by Bobby Adams.

Filmmaker John Waters in his younger days was captured on film by Bobby Adams.

What is hope?

A variety of answers to this question are now on display at the American Visionary Art Museum in downtown Baltimore. And oh what a lot of interesting answers there are.

Every fall, AVAM opens a major new exhibition and the theme for this one, The Big Hope Show, curated by AVAM’s own Rebecca Hoffberger, was chosen before the unrest that plagued the city after death of a young man in police custody. But what a great theme it is — especially in light of the springtime turmoil. The museum, devoted to untrained artists, has given a lot of space to this show so make sure you take plenty of time to see it all.

This year’s show includes nationally known artists and lots of Baltimore-based ones, as well. I found myself drawn to the Baltimore stories.

Local photo-journalist Noah Scialom captures Baltimore street scenes with his camera.

Local photojournalist Noah Scialom captures Baltimore street scenes with his camera.

I especially liked Noah Scialom‘s portraits of Baltimore City’s streets. His portraits make you look at places you might turn away from otherwise. Or never see because you never go to those neighborhoods.

Lisa Revson pays tribute to the lost earring with her multi-media A ritual of Hope: The Lost Earring Project.

Lisa Revson pays tribute to the lost earring with her multi-media A ritual of Hope: The Lost Earring Project.

Have you ever lost an earring? What did you do with the one left? I have dozens of them.

And so apparently does Lisa Revson, the artist who created “A Ritual of Hope: The Lost Earring Project.” Her collection includes the stories of 30 people who lost an earring that meant something special to them. There’s even an opportunity for visitors to share their own story of loss. Revson, a filmmaker, live-in New York but attended Goucher College in nearby Towson.

Bobby Adams began working with Baltimore-based filmmaker John Waters in 1970 and his collection of photos from Waters’ early filmmaking days — with pictures of Divine, Johnny Depp and Ricki Lake — are on display here along with his multi-media assemblage, “What a Wonderful Life.”

Herman Wallace was innocent but spent four decades in solitary confinement. He created Herman's House.

Herman Wallace was innocent but spent four decades in solitary confinement. He created Herman’s House.

While some artists have not exhibited their works before, others are well-known. Wayne Coyne of the band Flaming Lips created an immersive sculpture, “The King’s Mouth.” Go ahead and climb in for a better view. Frank Warren, creator of Post Secretshas become a regular at AVAM and his work is on the walls here, too. Herman Wallace‘s “Herman’s House” was created while Wallace was an inmate at Angola Prison for 41 years — in solitary, no less — for a crime he didn’t commit.

AVAM never fails to delight visitors. And amuse. And confuse. And occasionally shock. But every exhibition makes you think, wonder and question. That’s a lot for an art show to do. But AVAM always does it right.

The Big Hope will be at AVAM until Sept. 4, 2106.

Chris Roberts-Antieau's fabric story pieces include the Swan.

Chris Roberts-Antieau’s fabric story pieces include the Swan.

A detail from Nancy Josephson's mixed media sculpture, Erzulie Kowez. Her art bus is part of AVAM's permanent collection. Josephson live-in nearby Wilmington, Del.

A detail from Nancy Josephson’s mixed media sculpture, Erzulie Kowez. Her art bus is part of AVAM’s permanent collection. Josephson live-in nearby Wilmington, Del.

ⓒ Text and photos by Mary K. Tilghman

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