This past weekend I went to Baltimore on a visit and made it my business to visit the Visionary Art Museum which houses a collection of self made/outsider art unlike any other I have ever seen. Of course, I forgot my Coolpix camera and had to impose on a friend's use of their Olympus so I cannot vouch for the pictures I put up. Nevertheless, this is the most spectacular event because it coincides with my vision of art, using mosaic, found objects, collected memories, inspiration, and downright talent to come up with something that speaks to your very soul about the maker. To start, when I came from the car to the museum, I was enthralled with a freestanding 3 story high painted metal whirligig in front of a round building, not unlike Frank Lloyd Wright, encrusted with mirror pieces, ceramics, tile and general stuff in a swirl of glitter and sparkle, a harbinger of what was to come. The restaurant sits atop the building outside and inside hidden from view but high enough to see out over a park and possibly to the bay on the other side. We had lunch there eventually beside a bar with mirror mobiles lining its length and paper mache heads of a cow, walrus, and buffalo, all beaded, tiled, sparkled, and formidable. The food was incredibly unique and wonderful, especially the homemade pretzel balls they brought to the table hot and crusty and soft on the inside with a splash of salt and dark mustard. But I digress from the space.
When one enters the building, there is a ceiling at admissions leading all the way to the center with hanging airplanes and other air vehicles, each seemingly different but when put together, they look like a small airshow for the viewer. Then there is a shop called SIDESHOW and there I spent much time culling their art, books, fun gifts, jewelry and excess. I specifically went to this museum because of an artist I bought in a gallery in Philadelphia on a visit there 3-4 years ago. Her name is Chris Roberts-Antieau and you can find her work on her website: http://www.chrisroberts-antieau.com/- which will give you her bio and some of her work for sale, etc. Simply put, she is a brilliant collage fabric artist with a very edgy wit and definitive humor about life, liberty, and the pursuit of dogs and cats and the entire animal kingdom, including us. In the SIDESHOW shop she has about a dozen or so pieces for sale and in the museum itself 2 works which say everything about who she is- one features the devil and an angel discussing the good and bad of habits and ways of humans in a funny complex of small puzzle pieces stitched carefully by hand. The other features Howdy Doody in a wonderful likeness for those of you who are old enough to remember him and hangs next to the restrooms so you can be sure to see it when traveling to the loo. Some of the other art in this particular building, (there are a total of 3 buildings), illuminates the mosaic artists- using cracked china, glass, mirror, tiles, statues, and anything else handy.There are stories galore about how each of them was propelled to do their pieces. In the case of one such artist, his replica of the Lusitania cut in half spans about 6 ft long in perfect proportion, took 2 years to finish and is made exclusively of toothpicks and glue. I believe I read that he used just under 1 million of them.
The second building has a sculpture garden and fountain with its facing having a bird's nest off the 3rd floor, made from metal woven onto the outside of the building. You can stand inside it if you climb the stairs. A two story bird made from metal with an oversized cello for a body stands guard over the nest and then there is an egg, about 8 ft tall nearby made of ceramic, mirror, stone, and tile. The same artist made a gate to the sculpture garden and also the railing to the "pallazio" which connects the first 2 buildings.
The 3rd building is an enormous warehouse like space with oversized pieces- for ex. a 20 ft high remembrance of Divine done in paper mache and a totem of carvings of Morrison, Joplin, Lennon, and Hendrix. There were a great many small automaton pieces for you to interactively push buttons to make move and were incredibly intricate, tongue in cheek in their delivery. The reason I even knew about this incredible spot was reading that this was a place to see more of Chris Roberts-Antieau's work but I ultimately found so much more than I ever expected. For me, it was an experience I won't forget and was so apropos to where I am in my art process right now.
I can't wait to show you the pictures of my new mailbox which I will be posting soon and will be installing the first week of November outside my house. It is so indicative of where I want my art to go in the future with combining all the ideas of these mosaic artists and my own vision: humorous and also creative, into a free standing piece. In the meantime, the woman, Kathy, who put it all together for me, and who has worked diligently to improve and also implement my vision has a website- http://www.lovemosaics.com/- which you can visit at your leisure. She told me that I expanded her artistry and molded it into the piece we have completed of which I know she is very proud.
Below see some of the pics I took of the Visionary Art Museum and hopefully it will stimulate you to go make a trek to this place very soon and get inspired like me!