October 3, 2015 – September 4, 2016
AVAM's all new exhibition champions the radiant and transformative power of hope, and features work by 25+ visionary artists, among them many "super survivors" of enormous personal traumas.
"Where Am I? Who Am I? Why Am I?" by William Kurelek
Like love, you know it when you see it. But here's the longer definition, straight out of our Mission Statement:
In short, visionary art begins by listening to the inner voices of the soul, and often may not even be thought of as 'art' by its creator.
The German origin of the word "folk," or volk, suggests "of the people." The term "folk art" can be applied in the broadest sense: it's art of or by the people. At AVAM, we don't define visionary art as "folk art," or even "contemporary folk art," principally because organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts rightfully define folk art as art coming out of a specifically identifiable tradition. Folk art is "learned at the knee" and passed from generation to generation, or through established cultural community traditions, like Hopi Native Americans making Kachina dolls, sailors making macramé, and the Amish making hex signs. The "contemporary folk art" label isn't appropriate for AVAM either, since we like to show works created by self-taught artists who may have lived hundreds of years ago, alongside work that may have been created last year. The exhibition themes we choose to explore are, thus, innately timeless -with the power to inspire human beings in highly personal acts of creation. Unlike folk art, visionary art is entirely spontaneous and individualized.
The essential difference between the two, though both may at times use similar materials and methods, is that visionary artists don't listen to anyone else's traditions. They invent their own. They hear their own inner voice so resoundingly that they may not even think of what they do as 'art.' Dubuffet's beloved Art Brut Collections, formed exclusively from the "raw art" creations of non-artists, such as street people, hermits, factory workers, housewives and psychic mediums, motivated him to say: "Art is at its best when it forgets its very name." It is this listening to one's inner voice with such focused attention that contributes to the unusually large number of visionary artworks, many of which took decades to create. Yet there are still common threads. The most common theme of visionary artists worldwide is the backyard recreation of the Garden of Eden and other utopian visions – quite literally building heaven on earth.
Absolutely. All of us at AVAM enjoy and respect the learning that comes from academic study or through apprenticeship to a trained artist. We dedicate AVAM exclusively, however, as a place devoted to the other path of mastery – the intuitive path of learning to listen to the small, soft voice within. We believe there is great power in not knowing what will or won't work, and we adhere to the importance of not being immersed in rule-based systems which can cloud one's vision. As in science, ignorance often gives birth to genuinely new inventions and a re-examination of what has already been dismissed. Jonathan Swift defined this kind of vision so perfectly: "Vision is the art of seeing things invisible." Discovering possibilities that others do not see is what visionaries do best.
We are committed to unveiling a great range of the best of visionary art by exploring one unifying theme at a time. We seek out individual guest curators who know, respect, and adore visionary art and who are likely to have their own special relationship with a particular exhibition theme. We like them to lead a full life quite apart from their curatorial abilities, so that their personal richness and other interests can influence their show. Check out "AVAM's Sure-Fire Recipe for Enchantment" below - a starting point for creating our one-of-a-kind exhibitions.
Yes, we now have over 4,000 pieces in our collection! We intend to rotate exhibition of the best works in our Permanent Collection Gallery, located on Level 1 of our Main Building, opposite AVAM's Museum Shop, as well as throughout our other two buildings and garden space. Approximately 50 works will be on view at any one time in the Permanent Collection Gallery. This space also permits us to showcase some amazing works made available to AVAM on long-term loan. With the Permanent Collection Gallery, the Third Floor Gallery, Tall Sculpture Barn, and the 45,000 sq. foot Jim Rouse Visionary Center, AVAM can stay open during the five-week change periods between each of our annual thematic exhibitions (with a reduced admission fee of $8). Our Museum Shop, Sideshow, stays open to serve you, too. AVAM is dedicated to continuing production of all new mega-exhibitions. They provide an ideal forum for public exploration of all the grand themes that have always inspired human beings into acts of fresh, new creation. This system also lets us borrow the best art works to share with the public, and return them safely to be appreciated elsewhere. In this way, we can exhibit fabulous art, without the great expense of AVAM purchasing works that would only have to be eventually confined to dark, climatized storage while we mount new shows.