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18 Dec 2023

Virtual Insights: Marvels of My Own Inventiveness

The exhibition Marvels of My Own Inventiveness foregrounds the formal innovations of five Black painters working in and around abstraction: Mary T. Smith, Claude Lawrence, J. B. Murray, Leonard Daley, and Purvis Young.

This exhibition is the second in a series of thematic shows drawn from the Museum’s collection that will run from March 2023 to May 2025. Organized in the Daniel Cowin Gallery, these exhibitions invite viewers to admire the museum’s collection up close while showcasing an expansive history of American art.

In this presentation, Sadé Ayorinde and Brooke Wyatt will reflect on their curatorial goals and discuss their collaborative decision-making process as it unfolded to shape the exhibition. The curators share behind-the-scenes insights on how they transformed the gallery into a visually arresting space foregrounding painterly interventions by contemporary Black self-taught artists from the Museum’s collection. They will invite viewers to study the paintings while learning more about the artists’ intentions and creative process

Marvels of My Own Inventiveness is generously supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. 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 Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, Peter J. Cohen, and Willett Bracken Evans.

Space is limited; advance registration is required. Please consider making a donation when you register to support ongoing virtual programming.

Instructions for joining with a Zoom link and password will be provided by email upon registration confirmation under “Additional Information.” Closed captioning will be provided in English. For questions or to request accessibility accommodations, please email

About the speakers

Brooke Wyatt is Luce Assistant Curator at the American Folk Art Museum where she is working on a series of exhibitions drawn from the Museum’s collection of folk and self-taught art. She practiced as a clinical therapist in community mental health settings and worked as an art teacher before beginning her PhD in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. Brooke’s doctoral dissertation, titled “Séraphine Louis and French Self-Taught Art in Transatlantic Modernist Discourse,” explores the material and representational strategies of the French artist Séraphine Louis, foregrounding how histories of race, gender, class, and disability have shaped the reception and exhibition of Louis’s work across Europe and the Americas from the late 1920s to the present day.

Sadé Ayorinde is a Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and recently served as Warren Family Assistant Curator at the American Folk Art Museum. She is also a PhD candidate in the department of History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University. Viewing art as a form of visual communication that questions, manipulates, and/or distorts racial, social, and gender relationships, her research focuses on constructions of identity via modern and contemporary American art, mass media, and visual culture.

Sadé earned a B.S. BA (bachelors of science in business administration) in International Business and an M.A. in Art History from University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL). She has held various curatorial and educational roles including a position at the Sheldon Museum of Art, and collaborations with Cornell’s Kroch Rare Manuscript Division, the Johnson Museum of Art, and the International Quilt Museum.


Left: Claude Lawrence (b. 1944), Ronald & Donald, The Oldest, Sag Harbor, New York, 2004. Acrylic on paper, 23 1/4 x 29 1/8 in. American Folk Art Museum, New York; gift of Audlyn Higgins Williams and E. T. Williams, Jr. in honor of Charles N. Adkins, American Folk Art Museum Trustee, 2015.19.5.

Right: Mary T. Smith (1904-1995), Untitled, Hazelhurst, Mississippi. Paint on wood24 x 48 3/8 in. American Folk Art Museum, New York; gift ofHarriet G. Finkelstein, 2018.24.2.

1:00 pm–2:15 pm

Virtual; free with registration