American Perspectives 2004 9 1
Jessie B Telfair, Freedom Quilt, 1983; Textile-Cotton with pencil, 74 x 68 inches; American Folk Art Museum, New York, Gift of Judith Alexander in loving memory of her sister, Rebecca Alexander, 2004.9.1

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American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum Collection

Jul 30, 2023 - Oct 8, 2023

Presented by: The Joe Orgill Family Fund for Exhibitions

Organized by: The American Folk Art Museum with support provided by ArtBridges

Exhibition lecture: American Perspectives: Curatorial Highlights by Emelie Gevalt

American Perspectives presents seventy works of art from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, the premier repository of work by self-taught artists. The exhibition includes a diverse range of works from the colonial era through present day that offer a glimpse at vernacular art practices from across the United States. Assemblage, needlework, paintings, pottery, quilts, and sculpture are all represented, demonstrating the breadth of craft and artistic practices explored by outsider artists in America.

An umbrella term that encompasses an array of objects, many with utilitarian purposes, folk art is created by self-taught artists, or those who developed their craft from experience, rather than traditional artistic training, from myriad backgrounds. American Perspectives is organized into broad thematic sections that explore the motivations that drove these artists and highlight recurring themes such as nationhood, freedom, community, imagination, opportunity, and legacy. Unexpected visual juxtapositions draw out the way folk art is a witness to history, a carrier of cultural heritage, and a reflection of the world through the eyes of the artists.

These four conceptual units – Founders, Travelers, Philosophers, and Seekers – highlight the varying perspectives conveyed by the exhibition. Founders encompasses works of art that testify to the establishment of a new and experimental nation, the development of national identity with its subtexts of inclusion and exclusion, and the pride in and price of freedom. Travelers explores the ever-present restlessness of American society. Travelers may be newcomers to the United States, settlers moving across an expanded nation, or those moving along the unconventional paths that exist in lore, imagination, and inspiration. Philosophers offers a platform for artists whose works of art voice singular reflections, concerns, testimonies, and dreams. Whether strident, sorrowful, or joyous the emotions captured in these works are unmediated, moving, and accessible. Seekers reveals the universal yearning for meaning, identity, and purpose through art that expresses a quest for answers to humanities large questions.

Through these objects, by artists including Dave Drake, Clementine Hunter, Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses, Joseph Yoakum, Edward Hicks, James Castle, and others, including several unidentified artists, the exhibition seeks to share powerful narratives that offer first-hand testimony to chapters in the unfolding story of America from its inception to the present and share with audiences this remarkable collection of work by self-taught artists.

Sponsored by: Art Bridges | Opus East Memphis | Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Foundation | Karen and Preston Dorsett | Theodore W. and Betty J. Eckels Foundation | Andrea and Doug Edwards | Amanda and Nick Goetze | Anne and Mike Keeney | Nancy and Steve Morrow | Irene Orgill | Gwen and Penn Owen | Chris and Dan Richards | Adele Wellford | Wilson, Arkansas