Mr. Imagination was born Gregory Warmack in Chicago in 1948, the third of nine children who gave church concerts together as the Warmack Singers. As a child, he suffered from seizures, but they stopped at the age of 14. 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. During the doctors' attempt to save Gregory's life, he 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 2001, 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 and his beloved pets, Mr. Imagination started anew in Atlanta where he worked to establish a haven for other visionary artists.
"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."
Mr. Imagination donated the throne entitled, "Always Remember You Are The Child Of King" to the permanent collection of the American Visionary Art Museum in celebration of its 10th Anniversary. Warmack's works have been shown and collected in museums around the world, including The Smithsonian, The Dallas Museum of Art, and many others.
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.