The Visionary Imagination

July 24, 2008


In looking over my past blogs, I am surprised to see that I have not yet written about the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. I have been writing about the imagination, and things related to the imagination, and this museum has to be one of the best repositories of imaginative activity that I have seen. An argument could be made that any art museum or gallery could fit that description, but this collection has a kind of purity that seems largely unadulterated with ambition; style, trends, and fashion; or even self-consciousness.

Here’s how the folks at the museum define visionary art: ‘ “Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.” In short, visionary art begins by listening to the inner voices of the soul, and often may not even be thought of as ‘art’ by its creator.’ (I took this definition from their well-designed web site which gives lots of information about who, what, when, and where.)


CNN on line reports that next fall there will be a show at the museum featuring the work of Frank Calloway, a 112 year old African/American artist, who makes his art at a mental facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and who has been institutionalized since 1952 after a diagnosis of schizophrenia. It is one of the pleasures of attendance at the museum to find such idiosyncratic, emotional, spiritualized, and joyful work.


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