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Museum News
07 Dec 2020

The American Folk Art Museum Announces Highlights of its 2020 Acquisitions

 Key works by Yuichiro Ukai, Abigail Wisdom, and Edward Deeds enhance the collection

(New York, December 7, 2020) — The American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) announced today the acquisition of significant works of art accessioned into its collection in 2020. The artworks span three centuries and several genres, including some that are the museum’s first works by the respective artists.

“These extraordinary artworks fulfill important mission-driven goals to strengthen the museum’s holdings and expand the narratives it shares with its guests,” said Jason T. Busch, President and CEO of the museum. “Curators Emelie Gevalt and Valérie Rousseau have shown vision and thoughtfulness in realizing these important acquisitions. The works—with more to come as the museum celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2021—enable the museum to present an inclusive, nuanced, and meaningful story of self-taught art across time and place.”

The new acquisitions include:

Yokai, Yuichiro Ukai (b. 1995, Japan)

Titled Yokai (“Monsters”), this piece is one part of a seven-panel composition and is the first work by Ukai to enter a museum’s collection. It is typical of Ukai’s range in its themes, sources, composition, and color. His method consists of drawing sequences made of repeated subjects. Working from right to left, his compositions often unfold over multiple panels. The movement and expression of each character subtly varies for each panel and is drawn from multiple time periods, cultures, and spaces.

Pointing HandsQuilt, unknown maker (early 20th Century, found in Tennessee)

Possibly connected to traditional African American beliefs in protective charms – also known as “mojos” or “hands” – this iconographically evocative quilt stands as an example of culture’s powerful ability to endure and find new forms of expression, even through traumas as destructive and destabilizing as slavery and its aftermath. The various directions of the pointing hands, combined with a multiplicity of patterns incorporated at odd angles, may be associated with folk beliefs that harmful spirits could be confounded through visual trickery.

Sampler, Abigail Wisdom (c. 1790-1878, Nova Scotia)

This early 19th-century Nova Scotia sampler features the unusual figure of a small Black girl. Although the sampler was made by a white girl–Abigail Wisdom–it nonetheless speaks powerfully to the presence of Black history within the same time and place. Given that interracial interactions between children could be less hierarchically structured than those between adults during the period, the maker’s young age may offer a clue to the centering of the small Black girl in the middle of the composition, possibly representing someone known to the needleworker, even a playmate.

Album cover and drawings by James Edward Deeds, Jr (1908-1987, United States)

For 37 years, Deeds lived at the State Hospital No. 3, in Nevada, Missouri. He drew on both sides of the psychiatric facility stationary paper, which he later stitched to a homemade album cover and sequentially numbered. Flipping back and forth, the drawings have a hypnotic rhythm of portraits, alternating with objects, animals, and architecture. The broad faces pass like people in train windows, and they become otherworldly as the drawings continue. Through this acquisition, AFAM has become the largest repository of works by Deeds.

Lodge Goat, unknown artist (Early 20th Century, possibly Vermont)

Lodge goats were used in the early 20th century for the purposes of humorous initiation rituals among various fraternal orders. The example acquired by AFAM is distinctive for its sculptural appeal, as well as its non-commercial manufacture as the majority of these types of objects were produced by regalia companies. The wheelbarrow-like construction indicates how this object would have been used, with a hoodwinked initiate sitting on the animal’s back while a society member grasped the handles and directed the goat’s intentionally jerky and clumsy movement.

Media Contact:

Christopher Gorman,


About the American Folk Art Museum

Since 1961, the American Folk Art Museum has been the leading institution shaping the understanding of art by the self-taught through its exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. As a center of scholarship, it showcases the creativity of individuals whose singular talents have been refined through personal experience rather than formal artistic training. Its collection includes more than eight thousand works of art from four centuries and nearly every continent—from compelling portraits and dazzling quilts to powerful works by living artists in a variety of mediums. The museum will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2021.