The Art of Storytelling: Lies, Enchantment, Humor & Truth

Oct. 6, 2012 – Sep. 1, 2013
Zanvyl A. Krieger Main Building

Admission grants entry to the museum and all exhibitions except "A Visionary Spirit for Invention," which is not open to the public.

Image Gallery


About the Exhibition

"Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale." –Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875)
From scripture to fairy tale, cartoons to cyberbullying, the raw power of stories to inspire and enchant, spread lies or to inform, simply has no equal. THE ART OF STORYTELLING: Lies, Enchantment, Humor & Truth is the American Visionary Art Museum's brand-new, supremely original exhibition featuring embroidery, diorama, sculpture, film, graffiti, and PostSecret confession—promoting all manner of acute 'visual listening' and delight for the whole family.

The museum's 18th, yearlong, thematic exhibition explores the impact of story via visual narratives created by 30+ visionary artists, each expressive of some personal aspect of tale-telling. Their intuitive creations include: the intricate cutout stories of TED speaker and artist sensation, Béatrice Coron; Mars Tokyo's miniature 3-D Theaters of the 13th Dimension; and by popular demand, the return of Esther Krinitz's love-filled, 36-piece, embroidered tale of her Holocaust survival. Other exhibition highlights include a collection of twenty painted self-portrait stories by rescued Cambodian children, and accompanied by Leslie Hope's documentary film, What I See When I Close My Eyes; photographer Larry Yust's Streets Tell Stories, images of graffiti and street art from across the globe; and Andi Olsen's filmed stories behind human body scars. Another return from AVAM's inaugural exhibition is Debbie and Mike Schramer's Fairy Tree Houses, guaranteed to enchant as powerfully as AVAM's permanent collection of South African "Truth and Reconciliation" story quilt testimonies. Chris Roberts-Antieau's newest batch of humorous embroidered fabric appliqués join with artist P. Nosa's stitched five-word-inspired scenes, created on his bike pedaled/solar powered, roving sewing machine! Apache elder Judy Tallwing's tribal legends, painted with precious metals and adorned with prayer beads, speak to the oral traditions that pass sacred stories to new generations; and opera/hip-hop/performance artist Vanessa German wields found sculpture assemblages to shout her 'soul stories,' aimed at retelling a more truthful side to African American history.

THE ART OF STORYTELLING's 'table of contents' overflows with quotes, jokes (even the classic "a guy walks into a bar..." has a who, what & where to it), and timeless sub-categories like Shakespeare's "All The World's A Stage, And All The Men And Women Merely Players." Another section, "Lies, Loshon Hora & True Confessions of Bullies & The Bullied Innocents" examines the dark underbelly of storytelling, magnified via the Internet to spin negative, false and hurtful stories. This exhibition is an articulate plea for greater civility and kindness in our ways of telling stories about, and speaking to, one another.

This must-see exhibition is a sequel for co-curatorial team Rebecca Hoffberger, Founder & Director of AVAM, and Mary Ellen 'Dolly' Vehlow, award-winning graphic designer and Founder/Sponsor of Washington, D.C.'s H Street Festival. THE ART OF STORYTELLING: Lies, Enchantment, Humor & Truth underscores the role all museums and media play as public storytellers, as well as their inescapable influence on what we think, believe, and ultimately understand of stories.

"There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories." –Ursula K. Le Guinn

Anonymous artists, Chris Roberts-Antieau, Calvin and Ruby Black, Art Brun, Béatrice Coron, Timmerman Daugherty, Jim Doran, Emily Duffy, Nancy Duvall, Vanessa German, Allen Hicks, Leslie Hope, George Kennard, M.D. (Story provided by historian, Dr. Philip J. Merrill), Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, Patty Kuzbida, Anthony Horton & Youme Landowne, Geraldine Lloyd, P. Nosa, Ben Ortega, Andi Olsen, Brian Pardini, Nina Shapiro-Perl, PostSecret artists, Rescued Children of Friends-International Cambodia, Betty Rosen, Allie Light & Irving Saraf (Light-Saraf Films), Debbie Schramer, Mike Schramer, Marcellin Simard, M.D., William Stoeckley, D.D.S., Judy Tallwing, Alex Todorovich, Mars Tokyo, Frank Warren, Harriet Elizabeth Thompson, a.k.a. "Princess Wee Wee," Matthew "Bay Bay" Williams, Larry Yust.

Julian Bond, civil rights and AVAM champion
Josh Charles, Emmy nominated actor committed to anti-bullying initiatives
Linda Kavelin-Popov & Dan Popov, Ph.D., founders of The Virtues Project
Lyn Pentecost, founder of The Lower East Side Girls Club
Ken Waissman, Tony Award-winning Broadway producer and (if you insist) musical storyteller
Laura Wexler and Jessica Henkin, co-founders & co-producers of The Stoop Storytelling Series
Jean L. Wyman, LCSW-C

our generous sponsors

Francis Goelet Lead Charitable Trusts • Joannie, the Queen of Hearts, & Her Knights in Shining Armour, Dr. Harry Lee Friedman & Mr. Ryan James Christos Hamilos • Whiting-Turner Contracting Company

Anonymous • Bunting Family Foundation • Max's Taphouse • Lisa and Paul Revson • Urban Chic

Jane Daniels • John Sondheim and Emily Greenberg • Kiwanis Club of Baltimore • Philip E. Klein & Harriet J. Klein Foundation, Inc. • Thomas McCabe • Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence C. Pakula • Arnold and Alison Richman • Sylvan/Laureate Foundation

Emile Bendit, M.D. • Mary Catherine Bunting • Rosalee and Richard Davison • JoAnn and Jack Fructhman • Hecht-Levi Foundation, Inc. • Betsy & George Hess and MIDABI Philanthropic Fund • Maryellyn Lynott • Two Boots Pizza

Exhibition Supporter
Jan Weinberg

Currently on view

The Secret Life of Earth
Oct. 5, 2019 – Sep. 5, 2021

The Secret Life of Earth

The Science and Mystery of Sleep
Oct. 10, 2020 - Fall 2022

The Science and Mystery of Sleep

Esther and the Dream of One Loving Human Family
Feb. 23, 2019 - Mar. 3, 2024

Esther and the Dream of One Loving Human Family

A Visionary Spirit for Invention
Nov. 23, 2020 - May 23, 2022

A Visionary Spirit for Invention

American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM)

800 Key Highway

Baltimore, MD 21230


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