It's a funny term. It's far nicer than the french term for it - Art Brut. My heart holds a special place for Visionary Art - because I grew up going to antiques auctions, where paint decorated furniture, weathervanes, and all manner of folk art were on view to look at and examine during the previews. Into my twenties, I grew to love the quirky, the funky, and the carnivalesque creations of artists like Wolfi, and Simon Rodia ( who created Watts Towers). I still love how soulful, expansive, and honest the work is. Nearly every visionary artist to me has a shamanic quality to their work, with the range and depth of the mythos that inspires their outflow. It's refreshing and at times startling to see that degree of raw connection to something that eludes or defies shared language. One artist I've been thinking about alot these days is James Hampton and his work - The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly. There's a great back story here on the Colonial Williamsburg website:
I got to spend a fair amount of time with the installation when I was interning at the American Museum of Art. No matter where I was that day while there, I always managed to be drawn to it. The pieces are beautiful, of humble materials but so imbued with meaning and intention that they hum with energy. Being there is quite an experience, and if you have the chance to go there I'd recommend it. Plus there's a great Burmese restaurant near by.....I think about not only the beauty of the piece and the intention behind it, but also the persistence of Hampton in creating it. He worked on it for more than a decade and it still was unfinished. To this day, experts have not deciphered the code in the volumes of notebooks he wrote explaining the mythos behind it. That's part of the magic of it for me. The focused intention of this man, turning foil into poetry motivated by an eternal calling.
I think about Hampton and Rodia when I make stuff - especially when I do outdoor ephemeral art installations, or the thing I am working on in the barn. These creations are for me, for the joy of creation, to express my wonder with the materials and that I am here and have the chance to experiment one more day with them to see what comes and where that experimentation takes me.
|James Hampton and the Throne - image courtesy of Smithsonian|
|The Throne - image courtesy of Smithsonian|
|Detail of Throne - image courtesy of Smithsonian|