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22 Jun 2023

Marvels of My Own Inventiveness to Open at the American Folk Art Museum

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(New York, New York) Marvels of My Own Inventiveness will be on view at the American Folk Art Museum (2 Lincoln Sq., Columbus Ave. at W. 65th St.) from November 15, 2023 through March 24, 2024. 

The exhibition will feature an immersive viewing of 22 paintings by five contemporary Black artists in the American Folk Art Museum collection: Leonard Daley, Claude Lawrence, J.B. Murray, Mary T. Smith, and Purvis Young. By positioning these artists in conversation with one another, the exhibition will explore the artistic self-expression of  Black makers working in and around abstraction across dimensions of line, color, composition, and mark making.

The exhibition is curated by Brooke Wyatt, Luce Assistant Curator at the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM), and Sadé Ayorinde, Warren Family Assistant Curator. 

“Too often, Black artists – and especially Black self-taught artists – ​​have seen their work sidelined from mainstream art and curatorial conversations,” said Sadé Ayorinde, Warren Family Assistant Curator. “In Marvels, we endeavor to create an exhibition that is responsive to the artists’ works as documents of creative innovation, while establishing a space that is meant for intimate viewing.” 

The exhibition’s title is drawn from a passage by literary critic and Black feminist scholar Hortense Spillers, whose groundbreaking 1987 essay Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book includes the statement: “in order for me to speak a truer word concerning myself, I must strip down through layers of attenuated meanings, made an excess in time, over time, assigned by a particular historical order, and there await whatever marvels of my own inventiveness.” 

Reflecting on this sentiment, the exhibition interprets “inventiveness” as a metaphor for the creative process and painterly decision making. Through this interpretive lens, the exhibition will respond to works by each of the five artists by prioritizing a unique experiential encounter of close looking and contemplation. The show will include both large-scale and smaller works, and feature paintings made on paper, canvas, wood, and metal from the last 50 years. Several works by each of these five artists will be on view for the first time at AFAM.

“While paintings by Daley, Lawrence, Murray, Smith, and Young are well-represented within the Museum’s collection, these artists have never been exhibited together,” said Brooke Wyatt, Luce Assistant Curator. “Through Marvels, we aim to create a space for audiences to experience alternative modes of looking at and responding to the work of Black self-taught artists that are grounded in the statements artists have made visible through the paintings themselves.

Marvels is the second 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 each showcase works that promote an expansive history of American art and will be presented in the Museum’s Daniel Cowin Gallery. The first exhibition, Material Witness: Folk and Self-Taught Artists at Work (March 17, 2023–October 29, 2023), features over 150 objects and explores how artists learn with and through material engagement.

“This powerful exhibition reflects the Museum’s continued partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation and our shared desire to support an inclusive and relevant narrative of American visual history,” said Jason T. Busch, AFAM’s Becky and Bob Alexander Director & CEO. “We are thrilled to highlight a selection of works by each of these important artists within the AFAM collection.”

About the American Folk Art Museum

Founded in 1961, the American Folk Art Museum engages people of all backgrounds through its collections, exhibitions, publications, and programs as the leading forum shaping the understanding and appreciation of folk and self-taught art across time and place.

About the Henry Luce Foundation

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 differences, and seek common ground. Learn more at