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Material Witness: Folk and Self-Taught Artists at Work

March 17, 2023–October 29, 2023

Material Witness: Folk and Self-Taught Artists at Work is organized in four distinct sections in the Cowin Gallery, and explores how artists learn with and through material engagement, often in ways that evade and exceed conventional frameworks for artistic training.

One section will highlight artistic practices that respect and respond to the properties of regionally-sourced materials. Featured are works by artists including Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Ammi Phillips, and Jesse Aaron, as well as examples of earthenware, fraktur, and watercolor paintings. Another section will explore why makers gravitate to certain media and methods, such as sculpting, painting, and textile-making, and consider what prompts changes to artistic approach over time.

The exhibition will also feature works that embody a striving toward healing, protection, and transcendence. Artworks by Minnie Evans, Martín Ramírez, and Lonnie Holley transform found and collected materials sourced from everyday objects into vehicles for communion with spiritual and otherworldly realms.

Material Witness is the first in a series of thematic shows drawn from the Museum’s collection and generously supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The exhibitions will showcase works that promote an expansive history of American art and will be presented in the Daniel Cowin Gallery – originally established by Trustee Joyce Berger Cowin in memory of her husband, also a Trustee and champion of the Museum. It includes recently acquired works, including selections from the Audrey B. Heckler collection, and gifts from Sheldon M. Bonovitz, Peter Cohen, and Willett Bracken Evans.

Learn more about the exhibition in Spanish and English through a digital guide we’ve built for this exhibition.

Material Witness is curated by Brooke Wyatt, Luce Assistant Curator at the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM).





Consuelo “Chelo” González Amézcua (1903-1975) Scrutinare Del Rio, Val Verde Couny, Texas Work.  Pencil and ballpoint pen on paper 27 3/16 x 21 1/8 in. Frame: 29 9/16 x 23 3/8 in. American Folk Art Museum, New York, Gift of Jacqueline Loewe Fowler, 2018.19.1

Jimmy Lee Sudduth (1910-2007) Untitled (Self-Portrait) n.d. Mud and paint on plywood 50 ¼ x 27 in. American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of the Gitter-Yelen Collection, 2022.9.2

Jacob Strickler (1770-1842) Fraktur with Inverted Heart Shenandoah County, Virginia 1803 Watercolor and ink on paper 6 3/16 x 8 ¼ in. American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of Ralph Esmerian, 2005.8.30

Charles Butler (1902-1978) Man at Podium Clearwater, Florida 1950-1978 Wood 9 7/8 x 4 1/8 x 2 ¼ in. American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift in memory of Mr. & Mrs. Randy Siegel, Atlanta, Georgia, 1988.9.2B


The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. A leader in art funding since 1982, the Luce Foundation’s American Art Program supports innovative museum projects nationwide that advance art-centered conversations that celebrate creativity, explore difference, and seek common ground. Learn more at