Sunday, June 30, 2013

Inspiration and Visual Listening in Baltimore

Over the past winter I was looking for a pattern for a knitted shawl and came across an article where the writer suggested that I didn't need a pattern, that a shawl could be "knitted intuitively". Not trusting myself as to how to 'knit intuitively', I kept searching for a pattern.

It wasn't until I made my way to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD that the light bulb went on. There it was, in the info on their web site (, a comment about their holdings and their shows being "self-taught intuitive artistry". Of course, as with all artists, isn't that what we are all about -  and constantly being challenged to "find the confidence in your creativity"?

The American Visionary Art Museum or AVAM opened in 1995 and fills three, renovated, historic buildings close to Baltimore's downtown. Founder and Director Rebecca Hoffberger had a vision - to honor visionary art and define it as "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" (Mission Statement - AVAM) .

Since last September, the theme of the on-going exhibits is "The Art of Storytelling: Lies, Enchantment, Humor, Truth". The concept of 'visual listening' is what it is all about and it all flows like a ribbon from P. Nosa's work to Esther Krintz's embroideries which tell her tale or experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Mrs. Krintz's daughter was on site to lead us in a conversation about her mother's hangings - bringing the stories to life.

Another wonderful exhibit was the works of Gretchen Feldman - "Love Letters to Earth" - which showed some of her watercolours - as well as telling her story as a woman and an artist. 

There are no staff curators at AVAM. For each exhibition, guest curators who have an interest in a specific theme are invited to participate and to draw on all of their resources to pull the show together. 

From the outside, you can't miss the building! It is covered with mirror and glass mosaics that were created and installed in 2000 by members of AVAM's "Youth at Risk" mosaic apprenticeship program. A small bus, also covered with mosaics, sits in the courtyard to greet visitors.  

Detail on the hood of the bus

Outside wall of AVAM
Sculptures in the Garden at AVAM
Sculpture in the Inner Courtyard at AVAM
 After spending most of the day at AVAM trying to absorb all that my eyes could see, time was moving on so I took the next day to visit the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA).

Located in the sunlit atrium of the BMA are the Antioch mosaics. Included are twenty-eight mosaic pavements that were excavated from the ruins of ancient Antioch, now known as the city of Antakya in south-eastern Turkey. Between 1932 and 1939, staff from the BMA participated in the excavations. The mosaics date from between the 2nd and 6th centuries A.D. and are part of the permanent collection at the museum.

For a fibre artist (like me), the geometric designs and the possibilities for inspiration were everywhere.
Antioch Mosaics Border Patterns

I loved this one! 
 As a city, Baltimore is a wonderful, colourful place to be. Near the Baltimore Museum of Art, the whole neighbourhood gets in the spirit of painting up the town.

 Colour, colour everywhere!

More colour! My half is brown, yours is yellow!

One of my latest pieces of inspired visionary art!
"Lu Lu"        © Patricia Winans