Last week, I visited the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore to see the new exhibit, “What Makes Us Smile?” If you have never visited A.V.A.M., I highly recommend it. I think that it is an art museum that even people who hate art museums would like. I have been to several of their shows, and they are always fascinating. Their exhibitions, normally a year long, feature works that complement a chosen theme. The artists showcased are not professionally trained, and so the “feel” of the works is quite unexpected and independent. As the artists represent no school, the diversity of style is as broad as the human soul aspires. The exhibitions are well displayed and organized, too, with interesting information conveyed about the topic and about the artists.
The current exhibit mainly has to do with humor, and the walls around the artwork feature quotations and anecdotes about humor from anthropological and poetic perspectives. My favorite part of the show was the section on Oregon cartoonist John Callahan. I love mordant wit and contemn taboos; therefore, I found Callahan quite a congenial dissident. Callahan died this past summer, and A.V.A.M. presents his cartoons as a sort of memorial to him. Here is one of Callahan’s cartoons:
So, pray for the soul of John Callahan and make sure to visit the American Visionary Art Museum. Or visit Callahan’s soul and pray for the art museum. A trip to Baltimore puts all of the options on the table.