Dear members and friends,
Here is what is blooming at the American Folk Art Museum:
Among the most monumental of works of early American folk art are painted murals, which were once a prominent feature of many homes. Few remain intact. Soon to be on view at the Museum is a wall from the upper hallway of a Thornton, New Hampshire, house. The wall was removed in its entirety; it stands more than seven feet high and twelve feet wide. The painted imagery is uncanny: palm trees, an elephant, and soldiers. This unlikely juxtaposition is related in spirit to early nineteenth-century French scenic wallpapers, which were imported for use in American homes. We are so grateful to William Bernhard and Catherine Cahill for this historic and aesthetically important gift.
Our current exhibition, Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, has been a hit with visitors and the press. Can’t make it to the Museum? You still have the ability to experience a presentation that has been compared to Project Runway and Fashion Week, and which boldly demonstrates the flourishing of creativity, on Folk Couture’s website. The exhibition provides a dramatic overview of how some of the most original talents in the field go about fashioning the couture we admire so much, whether you see it in the galleries or on the website. The exhibition was featured on WNET/Channel 13’s NYC-ARTS program on Thursday evening, March 20, in a nine-minute segment that features Deputy Director and Chief Curator Stacy C. Hollander and Guest Curator Alexis Carreño.
For more spring cheer, check out the new happenings at the Museum Shop, which is blossoming with gift ideas for yourself or a loved one. Stefanie Levinson, who now heads Retail Services, brings more than thirty years of experience to the Museum. Among her faves are Beth Mueller’s limited edition, hand-made ceramic pieces—bottles, vases, mugs, and plates—adorned with charming illustrations, which she created especially for Folk Couture. Fashion designer Koos van den Akker has made, for sale at the Museum shop only, multipatterned scarves that are infinite loops of color and texture, and Gary Graham’s blend of charm, whimsy, and elegance is evident in the scarf he created in honor of Folk Couture, which is also only available at the Museum Shop. There is a treasure trove of new jewelry and ready-to-wear, and an array of sumptuous new pillows. And here’s even more good news: from April 1 through April 6, Museum members will be able to double their regular discount on Shop purchases!
Fashion design will be the topic in upcoming programs, as well. Gary Graham will discuss his Folk Couture ensemble on April 1 at 6 pm, and this will be followed by a talk with Fabio Costa on April 10 at 6 pm. We will celebrate the close of this spectacular exhibition on April 23, when Stella Bugbee, the editorial director of The Cut—New York Magazine’s fashion and lifestyle website—will moderate a discussion on the cross-pollination and rich interplay between art and fashion. A stellar group of panelists will be there: Kathy Battista, director of contemporary art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art; Amy Fine Collins, special correspondent, Vanity Fair; Thierry-Maxime Loriot, independent curator and curator of the recent exhibition about Jean Paul Gaultier; and Lucy Sykes, fashion creative director, Rent the Runway. For more information about these programs, and for reservations, please click here.
Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum opens on May 13. You may know that this groundbreaking exhibition will travel across the country beginning this fall. I am so pleased to announce that the Tampa Museum of Art will be the sixth and final venue of this national tour. The exhibition will reveal the history of art by the self-taught. Whether the work is traditional early folk art or contemporary, the expressive voices of self-taught artists are essential to the American narrative, and their roles in America’s shared history are paramount. This was surely recognized by the Henry Luce Foundation when they made the decision to provide generous funding for this project as part of their 75th anniversary initiative.
The Honorable Anne-Imelda Radice, PhD
Image: Scenic Wall, attributed to the Bear and Pears Artist, Thornton, New Hampshire,1800–1825, water-based paint on lime, sand, and horsehair plaster over spruce laths, 82 1/2 x 148 1/2″, gift of William Bernhard and Catherine Cahill, 1988.10.1; conservation supported by City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, J. Randall Plummer and Harvey S. Shipley Miller, and the Bay Foundation. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.