Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum
November 10, 2014

Groundbreaking Touring Exhibition Made Possible by a Generous Grant from the Henry Luce Foundation as part of its 75th Anniversary Initiative
Davenport, Iowa (November 10, 2014) – A groundbreaking exhibition originated by the American Folk Art Museum in New York will be making its first stop on a national tour at the Figge Art Museum in downtown Davenport. The exhibition opens this Saturday, November 15.
Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum features 115 artworks made between the early 18th and 21st centuries, ranging from portraits and needleworks to wooden shop figures and found-object sculptures. All are the compelling, beautifully realized work of self-taught artists which provide a fresh perspective on artistic impulse and our national character.
The exhibition and the national tour of Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum are made possible by generous funding from the Henry Luce Foundation as part of its 75th anniversary initiative. Dr. Michael Gilligan, president of the Foundation said, “For 75 years, the Henry Luce Foundation has fostered scholarship, innovation, and leadership—also attributes of the American Folk Art Museum. We are proud to sponsor a national tour of their exemplary collection that represents distinctive American creativity.”
“This exhibition serves as a landmark,” commented Anne-Imelda Radice, Ph.D., Executive Director of the American Folk Art Museum, “by locating the genesis of a field that has grown and become even more complex than ever before, and by clarifying its scope and substance. Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum provides new insight into the critical role of artists all-too-often overlooked.”
Developed and organized by Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions Stacy C. Hollander and Curator of Art of the Self-Taught and Art Brut Valérie Rousseau, Ph.D., the exhibition highlights the roles of self-taught artists as figures central to the shared history of America whose contributions to the national life and conversation are paramount. The works are by a diverse group of artists and represent more than 50 years of institutional collecting.
Works on view will include: Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog, c. 1830-1835, an oil on canvas by Ammi Phillips (1788-1865); The Encyclopedic Palace of the World, c. 1950s, a towering model designed by Marino Auriti (1891-1980) for a new museum meant to hold all of human discovery in every field; Flag Gate, c. 1876, a once-working gate by an unidentified artist to celebrate the nation’s centennial, which was a donation to the American Folk Art Museum in 1962 and its first acquisition; a 6’-wide paneled watercolor, and various bound and unbound volumes of the writings of Henry Darger (1892-1973), whose archive was established at the Museum in 2000; an exquisitely stitched Whig Rose and Swag Border Quilt, c. 1850, made by unidentified slaves on the Morton Plantation in Russellville, Kentucky; the monumental Mother Symbolically Represented/The Kathredal, 1936, an ink rendering on rag paper by Achilles Rizzoli (1896-1981), who loved to play with words, and frequently used anagrams, acronyms, and neologisms in his work; works by Morris Hirschfield (1872-1946); Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-1980); Horace Pippin (1888-1946); Martín Ramírez (1895-1963); Judith Scott (1943-2005); Mary T. Smith (c. 1904-1995); and other artists from many parts of the country, working in such media as drawing, painting, textiles, bones, wood, ceramics and more.
“The Figge Art Museum is honored to have the opportunity to make these American masterworks available to audiences in the Midwest. Our region has a rich tradition of folk arts, from duck decoys to weathervanes, and the exhibition will deepen our understanding and appreciation of our artistic heritage,” commented Tim Schiffer, Executive Director.
A fully-illustrated color catalog with essays by the curators, published by the American Folk Art Museum and Marquand Books, will accompany the exhibition, and is available for purchase in the Museum Store.
This exhibition is sponsored locally by John Deere Foundation and Genesis. It is funded in part with a grant from the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Self-Taught Genius will be on view at the Figge through March 15, 2015.
Companion Programming:
Exhibition Opening Reception/Curator Talk
Thursday, November 20
5:30 p.m. Opening Reception
7 p.m. Curator Talk
Stacy Hollander, deputy director for curatorial affairs, chief curator and director of exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum, will discuss the vision behind Self-Taught Genius and share new discoveries about select artworks in the exhibition.
Exhibition Tours
1:30 p.m. Saturdays
November 22, December 6, 13
1:30 p.m. Sunday, November 23
Musical Tour
7p.m. Thursday, February 12
Listen to the acoustic styling of singer/songwriter Sarah Allner as she performs original songs inspired by five artworks in the Self-Taught Genius exhibition.
Free Family Day
Saturday, February 21
10 a.m.-1 p.m. Guided Activities
Enjoy hands-on art projects, performances and gallery activities. Free admission all day!


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