Dear members and friends,
Our current exhibition Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection just received a wonderful review in the New York Times from Ken Johnson, who called the exhibition “captivating.” He spotlighted several individual works, including a marquetry folding table by James J. Crozier (1867–1950), an Independent Order of Odd Fellows wooden “whimsy,” and an 1885 appliqué quilt, which he described as “the exhibition’s most striking item.” He concluded that “You don’t have to be paranoid to have your curiosity and imagination stirred by this exhibition’s uncannily evocative materials.” I urge you to see this fascinating and important show before it closes on May 8.
On April 25 you can join Mystery and Benevolence co-curator Stacy C. Hollander, who is also Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions at the Museum, and leading fraternal art scholars for a half-day symposium organized in conjunction with Mystery and Benevolence.
Whenever there is an opportunity to be the “first” to present the work of an important artist or collection, that opportunity should be grasped with both hands. We have that chance with our summer exhibitions, which open on June 21: Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett and Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die. Fever Within is a traveling exhibition of forty-nine works organized by the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is the first retrospective of works by Ronald Lockett (1965–1998), a self-taught African American artist from Alabama who explored twentieth-century events he sought to better understand: those events range from large-scale, historic, and well-documented acts of violence and terrorism, such as the Holocaust and the Oklahoma City bombing, to personal investigations into mortality, salvation, and remembrance. The exhibition is curated by Bernard L. Herman, George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is organized for the American Folk Art Museum by Valérie Rousseau, Curator, Self-Taught Art and Art Brut.
Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die is a concurrent exhibition curated by Valérie Rousseau. It will spotlight ten works by Lockett alongside eighty small-scale works including nineteenth-century Native American effigies and Brazilian ex-votos or milagros (votive offerings used for their curative powers), works by contemporary artist Sandra Sheehy (b. 1965), and never-before-seen film interviews with Lockett. Once Something Has Lived will also highlight drawings from the Museum’s collection by Melvin Way (b. 1954), an African American artist from South Carolina. Many of the drawings are recent acquisitions that have rarely been seen before. Way’s complex, dense artworks have been described as “explorations of the mysteries of life.” The American Folk Art Museum is one of the first museums in the country to champion works by self-taught artists of the American South, including Lockett and Way. We are pleased to bring these important and must-see exhibitions to New York audiences.
On opening day, June 21, there will be a compelling discussion on the themes and imagery explored in the work of Lockett and other Southern African American self-taught artists. The panel will include Paul Arnett, Chairman of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation; Bernard L. Herman, curator of Fever Within; Thomas Lax, Associate Curator of Media and Performance at the Museum of Modern Art; and American Folk Art Museum curator Valérie Rousseau. More information will be available on the programs page soon.
I am especially happy to report that the Museum will receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for $30,000. The funds will be used in support of the exhibition Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett.
The Museum is pleased to now offer exhibition highlight tours in Spanish. These free programs are open to Spanish-speaking visitors of all ages. Our first Spanish-language program is coming up on Wednesday, April 20, at 5 pm. For more details, or to RSVP, please click here.
There are two exhibitions traveling right now: Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art is at the Huntsville Museum of Art through July 4, and Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum is at the New Orleans Museum of Art through May 22. Self-Taught Genius will travel to the Saint Louis Art Museum this summer, and then to the Tampa Museum of Art this fall.
The education department has been busy. The Museum is now accepting applications from high school juniors and seniors residing in Queens for its Youth Art Connection program (YAC). YAC is a free summer program with a focus on folk art and careers in the arts that takes place at the Museum’s Collections and Education Center in Long Island City. YAC participants will view and discuss the museum’s exhibitions, create art inspired by the collection, go behind the scenes at the Collections and Education Center, and visit New York City galleries, museums, and arts organizations. YAC will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 pm to 4 pm and will run July 18 through August 12, 2016. Participation is free and includes a MetroCard and art supplies. We hope that this program will be the first of many such education programs for New York City high school students.
In my last letter I mentioned that the library and archives would be open for research at the Collections and Education Center by appointment. Now it is official. Mimi Lester, the Rapaport Archivist, has published more than thirty archival finding aids online, and is welcoming researchers to our newly opened Reading Room.
The Museum Shop is hosting Members’ Double Discount days from Saturday April 30 to Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8. That translates to a 20% discount on everything from books, home decor items, fashion accessories, books, games for children, greeting cards, and much more. This wonderful sale happens only twice a year.
I look forward to seeing you at the Museum soon.
Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice
Image: Independent Order of Odd Fellows Apron, artist unidentified, United States, 1840–1860, paint, gold paint, and ink on silk satin, with cotton fringe and bullion trim, 16 x 17 1/2 in., gift of Kendra and Allan Daniel, 2015.1.47. Photo by José Andrés Ramírez.