From Other Worlds: Visionary Art from the Collection of Robert Hicks
By David Rosen, President, O’More College of Design
O’More College of Design is mounting a major exhibit of VIsionary Art from the collection Robert Hicks, which opens during the Franklin Art Scene on Friday, March 4, at 6 p.m. at the Robert N. Moore, Jr., Fine Arts Gallery in Abbey Leix Mansion.
Hicks, a best-selling author and one of the top 100 collectors in the U.S, has so much art that his walls, closets, nooks, crannies, and the spaces under beds and in bathrooms are filled. What is so compelling about this work?
It grabs viewers and pulls them in to the artist’s world. Visionary artists speak to us of what we cannot see and systems that we glimpse but do not fully comprehend.
Visionary artists are mostly untrained. The creative impulse does not always require training. No one instructed the artists in Tennessee’s Dunbar Cave (about 70 miles north of O’More), which contains the oldest North American paintings. But even if there were masters of the craft, mastery is only part of the story. The real story concerns the passion brought to the making and the intimacy we feel with the makers, unobstructed by layers of erudition and technique that can sometimes dull, distance and chill.
Robert Hicks, always attendant to the voices of people, places and times, hears how these works speak of the woods or streets where the artists trod, of where they settled, of what they touched and of what they saw. He has been drawn to pieces that are imbued with forceful presence, no matter how humble.
Visiting one artist, he saw a broom he liked. It had a face painted on it. The Don King broom. When he offered to buy it, the artist asked, “Then how will I sweep my floor?” “You can buy another,” said Hicks.
I am sure that every time the broom swept, its frayed and discoloring bristles came to resemble Don King even more closely. The artist was making the likeness, not just through the painted face, but through sweeping. It was the whole experience, not just the piece of art, Hicks sought and that his collection speaks of. I can hardly imagine any other type of art or artist you would feel that about.
Howard Finster, considered one of the most important Visionary Artists, spoke for many when he wrote:
I AM . . . A STRANGER FROM ANOTHER WORLD. MY FATHER AND MOTHER. MY SISTERS AND BROTHERS. MY WIFE. MY CHILDREN. MY GRAND CHILDREN. HAVE REALLY NEVER FIGURED ME OUT. . . WHEN MY WORK IS FINISHED I WILL GO BACK TO THE OTHER WORLD.
Some pick up the tools of traditions, like art-making, untainted by knowledge of their history and bend those tools to their need. And what comes through is the force of existence and vision.
See what the hands of visionaries have wrought at O’More College’s Robert N. Moore, Jr., Fine Arts Gallery. The show continues from March 5 to March 25.
Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Like the opening, a gallery visit is free to the public.
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