November 28, 2016

Photo Essay: A Museum of Misfit Artists

Baltimore is a gloriously weird city.

Amidst the shot towers and historic parks, the Inner Harbor cruises and chain steakhouses, and the racial unrest and the riots, there are a number of misfit museums...

...and a staggering collection of outsider art.

The American Visionary Art Museum revels in that weirdness...

...its "shattered mirror" facade flanked by mosaic tile walls...

...a decidedly modern architectural footprint...

...and kinetic sculptures that never seem to stop moving, like "Giant Whirligig" by Vollis Simpson, a farmer and mechanic who found inspiration in scrap metal.

At the AVAM, if you're not looking up, you're definitely missing out on something.

Then again, there's so much to see at eye-level, so many shiny things to catch your eye—like the "Gallery-A-Go-Go Bus" by ArtCar artist Nancy Josephson... NYC native who's an actual Voodoo priestess.

All of the art here is really "fantastic" in its own way.

And so much of it has been "blinged out"—like the "Aurora Borealis" wall, designed and constructed by both at-risk youth and incarcerated kids.

Appropriately, the outside of the museum is just as—if not more—important than the inside, with sculptures like the 11-foot "Giant Golden Hand" (which isn't so gold anymore) by Adam Kurtzman emerging from walls and perched on ledges.

Faces stare out at you, judging, yet speechless.

For me, the highlight was the "Cosmic Galaxy Egg" by Andrew Logan...

...whose design was inspired by images captured by the Hubble Telescope...

...of dying galaxies...

...and the birth of new stars.

Sometimes it's only through reflections that we can really see things accurately.

And yet the reflections we see of ourselves are probably the most distorted visions of all.

Other artists embraced by the museum include the dearly departed Salvation Mountain's Leonard Knight (whose "God Is Love" balloon is on display there) and Grandma Prisbrey of Bottle Village and the alive-and-well Kenny Irwin Jr. of Robolights.

I suppose they all had one thing in common: a distinct vision that made them all artists who were (and are) outsiders.

Of course, those are the ones I can relate to the most.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Picasso of The Caribbean's Surreal, Ceramic Land
Photo Essay: Mosaic Tile House, Venice

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