and Unfiltered Visions on View at NOMA through May 22

By Dr. Sara Hollis

Hawkins.-William.-Last-Supper-1024x912Self-Taught Genius and Unfiltered Visions are two exhibitions that should be very popular here in New Orleans. There is a tradition of self-taught artists in New Orleans, who will be seen in these exhibitions as well as a great number of artists through three centuries of time and from all corners of America. The work is vivid and widely varied in subjects and themes.

“The New Orleans Museum of Art is delighted to be a venue for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum,” says Susan M. Taylor, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of the New Orleans Museum of Art. “With NOMA’s long history of collecting and displaying southern, self-taught art, this distinguished, wide-ranging exhibition from the American Folk Art Museum will be a distinct complement to our collection.”

Allison Gouaux, NOMA’s communications and marketing manager, adds “Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum looks at American self-taught artists from the Revolutionary War to contemporary times, and NOMA has also organized an exhibition of our own self-taught art from our permanent collection (Unfiltered Visions) to coincide with this show from the American Folk Art Museum. NOMA was one of the early pioneers of collecting and displaying southern, self-taught art and we even organized the first solo exhibition of Clementine Hunter’s work in 1955.”

Sue C.B. Robert is the Institutional Curator at NOMA for the exhibition.

For those also captivated by this genre of art, there is an international journal, RAWVISION, which allows us to keep up with the field not only in the United States, but worldwide. Many of the artists in these two exhibitions at NOMA have graced its pages in recent issues.

The fully-illustrated color catalog, Self-Taught Genius, with essays by the organizing curators from the American Folk Art Museum, Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, published by the American Folk Art Museum and Marquand Books, is available in the Museum Shop. The authors break down the artists and their works into the following categories: Achievers, Encoders, Messengers, Improvement, Reformers, and Ingenuity. The catalog is 296 pages long with all color photographs. It is a treasure, and quite reasonable.

Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum is organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York. The exhibition and national tour are made possible by generous funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, as part of its 75th anniversary initiative. Presentation of this exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art is sponsored by the City of New Orleans and the Eugenie and Joseph Jones Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by Herman Herman & Katz, LLC.

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. Some 100 works by a diverse group of artists, dating from the mid-18th through the early-21st century, and representing more than 50 years of institutional collecting, will be on view. These 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, which has most recently been on loan to the 2013 Venice Biennale where it served as the centerpiece of the international fair; “Flag Gate”, c. 1876, a once-working gate by an unidentified artist to celebrate the nation’s centennial, which was a donation to the Museum in 1962 and its first acquisition; a six-foot 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); Thornton Dial (b. 1928) and other artists from many parts of the country, working in such media as drawing, painting, textiles, bones, wood, ceramics, and more.

Unfiltered Visions: 20th Century Self-Taught American Art at NOMA is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. NOMA’s exhibition, is on view in The Helis Foundation gallery. The New Orleans Museum of Art was among the early pioneers showing self-taught artists since the 1970s.

The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses nearly 40,000 art objects encompassing 5,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing special exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjoining Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century’s master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk.

For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit

Dr. Sara Hollis is a professor in the graduate museum studies program at Southern University at New Orleans. She can be reached at:

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