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Galleries for Folk and Self-Taught Art

1st floor West, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)

Image for Galleries for Folk and Self-Taught Art

James Hampton, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly, ca. 1950-1964, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of anonymous donors

SAAM’s collection of folk and self-taught art represents the powerful vision of America’s untrained and vernacular artists. Represented in the museum’s collection are pieces that draw on tradition—such as quilts—as well as artworks that reveal a more personal vision. The museum has reimagined its permanent collection galleries for art by untrained artists, which now display several dozen recent acquisitions and an expanded presentation of the beloved Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly by James Hampton.

Recently acquired works by Consuelo Gonzalez Amezcua, Emery Blagdon, David Butler, Ulysses Davis, Ralph Fasanella, Clementine Hunter, Dan Miller, Joe Minter, Eddy Mumma, J.B. Murray, Achilles Rizzoli, Melvin Way, Charlie Willeto, Clarence and Grace Woolsey, Purvis Young, and Albert Zahn join visitor favorites by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Martín Ramírez, and Jon Serl. A striking presence in the galleries is a display of more than sixty sculptures and paintings by Emery Blagdon that represents his constantly changing Healing Machine. It is the second-largest installation of his work on public view in the United States.

The new installation of the Throne includes Hampton’s personal journal, written primarily in an asemic, or unreadable script, and a chalkboard still showing some of Hampton’s sketched plans for the Throne. Both are on public view for the first time; the journal will be on display for a limited time.

Public Programs
Experts in the field of folk and self-taught art discuss the importance of fostering an appreciation for these complex and highly personal works Saturday, October 29, at 5:30 p.m. in the museum’s McEvoy Auditorium. The panel features Tom DiMaria, director of the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland; Bernard L. Herman, professor of Southern studies and American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Katherine Jentleson, curator of folk and self-taught art at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; and Philip March Jones, director of the Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York; Leslie Umberger, SAAM’s curator of folk and self-taught art, moderates the discussion. The program will be webcast live and archived on the museum’s website.

Nancie Ravenel, objects conservator at the Shelburne Museum, discusses the conservation of American folk art Thursday, January 26, at 4 p.m. in the museum’s MacMillan Education Center.

The museum’s Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. American Folk Art Fund provided support for this installation.