Monday, August 29, 2011

AVAM, Baltimore

The American Visionary Art Museum
Alfred E. Neuman
Smile Dress
Last Will and Testament

Between the earthquake and the hurricane, I managed to make it out to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore late last week. Lots of amazing work there and lots to think about. Their current exhibition What Makes Us Smile? was full of happy-sad work by a wide range of individuals, from outsider artists to Patch Adams, M.D. I loved the beaded Alfred E. Neuman headboard by Patty Kuzbida. It was also a unique pleasure to see the work of a Toronto friend in a huge museum show in a totally different city-- Rev. Aitor of The Misanthrope Specialty Co. had some of his infamous Unflattering Portraits in the show, and seeing them there was like seeing a familiar (ugly) face in a crowd of strangers.

After seeing the exhibition, Ben said that it was great that a museum like this exists because the things on display were "things he would have wanted to make when (he) was a kid." In saying this, he was referring to art made out of salvage, and a huge model boat made out of toothpicks (!) in particular. In so many words, I think he was implying that the work at the AVAM might encourage people to make things just for the sake of making them or follow a creative impulse that might initially seem odd or "pointless." This is an important thing for artists to keep in mind too-- there is nothing wrong with just making for the sake of making, or doing something "just because you want to." After all, experiments are the mothers of invention.