News from the Visionary
AVAM remembers 'Mr. Imagination,' a true visionary (1948–2012)
The American Visionary Art Museum is deeply saddened to learn that one of our most beloved visionaries, Gregory Warmack, a.k.a. 'Mr. Imagination,' has passed away. Warmack, a prolific, intuitive artist, who used his talents to create radiant works and educate youth, died on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, in an Atlanta hospital. Today, Mr. Imagination remains a principal and highly influential self-taught artist, and will be missed by all of us here at AVAM.
Warmack was born in Chicago in 1948, the third of nine children who gave church concerts together as the Warmack Singers. An inveterate collector of rocks, beads, trinkets, and myriad cast-off objects, Warmack started making and selling jewelry in his late teens. He also carved bits of bark, wood, and stone into faces that strangely resembled African tribal masks or Egyptian kings. In 1978, a week after having a premonition that someone was going to kill him, Warmack was shot twice while selling his handmade jewelry on the street. He went into a coma and had an out-of-body experience that changed him forever. Reflecting that change, he renamed himself "Mr. Imagination." Mr. I (eye) began using new and different types of recycled materials in his art, most notably the bottle caps he is still best known for today. In 2002, Mr. Imagination left Chicago for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, "to put down some roots and grow some vines." After eight years and a house fire in which he lost the majority of his work, Mr. Imagination started anew in Atlanta.
Mr. Imagination's Throne, a gift of the artist to AVAM
Mr. Imagination's art, which drew influence from his African roots, has been shown and collected in museums around the world, including The Smithsonian, The Dallas Museum of Art, and many others. In celebration of the American Visionary Art Museum's 10th anniversary, Mr. Imagination donated his bottle cap and jewel-encrusted throne entitled, "Always Remember You Are The Child Of King," to the museum's permanent collection, where it remains on display and a visitor favorite.
"Mr. I was a friend to this world, a practitioner extraordinaire of loving kindness and a profoundly original thinker. Our condolences to his Mother, and to all of us who were embraced as his family, by blood or kindred spirit." –Rebecca Hoffberger, proud friend and admirer of Mr. I.
"Years ago my great aunt predicted I was going to be a minister, and in a way she was right," Warmack said. "I think every artist is a minister and a messenger in a way."