Saturday, March 5, 2016

American Visionary Art Museum

 I'm here doing a two-week run of HICK: A LOVE STORY at the Baltimore Theatre Project.  I went to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore yesterday.   This is right outside the entrance to the museum:

This is their welcoming doormat:

It says "SMILE."  I couldn't quite fit the letters in.  It's made of old toothbrushes.  The letters are formed of old bristles, which are now a tad dirty.  The lovely colorful background is composed of the handles of the toothbrushes.  Genius, pure genius.

Why doesn't the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC do something like that???  They've got room on the floor!

Anyhow, the Museum is a very special wild, subversive place.  Much of the art is made by people in prison or mental hospitals or by people who are kind of hermits.  For many of these artists, their art is a way of holding onto sanity.  Often the stories behind the art are just as important as the art itself.   A good example is this first one:
This is a very small embroidered picture created by a man in prison.  He had never embroidered before, but somehow he felt this was how he was going to get through the days.  He had no money for thread.  The guards gave him old socks, which he unraveled and then used to create these lovely images.  There were six of them, all about 6X6 inches.  

I realize now that I didn't write down any of the artists' names.  That was disrespectful of me.  Oh well.  
Unfortunately, I couldn't take all the photos I wanted, because no photography was allowed.  I thought, "Fine, I'll just buy postcards!"  But then I went to the gift shop, and they had hardly any -- except multiple views of one sculpture that I didn't like at all!  Okay, it was well-done, but it was of a cutesy-pretty Barbie doll woman.  Yecch!  That made me mad.  No postcards!  Tell hell with the rules!  I skulked around the galleries, crouching in corners to escape watchful museum guards and got the photos here.  Plus a bunch others.

A lot of the art is just plain wild and wacky.  

The "What, Me Worry?" Alfred E. Newman bed is all done in sequins and beads. 

Inside this, I had an amazing experience:
Okay.  So the outside is tinfoil.  I took off my shoes, crawled in.  It was a kind of spongy cave.  Fortunately, so fortunately, I was the only one at the moment.  When I  came upon it, there were six giggly teens sitting inside.  But I could lie down.  There were all these strips hanging from the ceiling, hundreds of them, and when the light show began, they flickered in different colors, with different patterns, different rhythms.  The light show was coordinated with lovely spacey music.  And it went on and ON and ON!  

It was an intense spiritual experience.  I had a powerful revelation which would now be changing my life if I could remember what it was.  (P.S. I was not stoned.)

And nobody came in the whole time!  Just me realizing enlightenment!  Finally the music stopped, the flashing lights disappeared and a recorded voice told me that it was time to leave... several times.  So I did.  Wow.

This was around the corner inside the restaurant, so I could skulk and get the picture:
The story of Lilly and Dilly and their husbands Billy and Willy.  Their lovely matching dressers are made of little snippets from Maxwell House coffee cans -- you can see one on the upper left.  This is actually a full-length portrait, and I can tell you this artist drank a hell of a lot of coffee!  Lots of other art by this woman (again, no name, shame on me).  I feel this is her masterpiece.  The real coffee cups she used... brilliant.

Before I leave you with a few more pictures, I want to tell you my favorite quote from the bathroom.  I mean, this place is not like a museum.  It's so IRREVERENT.  Here goes:

When I die, I want to go like my grandpa did, gently sleeping -- not screaming like the other people in the car!


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