Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum

A colorful, horizontally-oriented oil painting of a diverse group of people seated on a train.
October 10, 2015–January 3, 2016
Second floor

Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum explores the “self-taught” artist as an elastic and enduring phenomenon with powerful and profound implications that have changed over time. More than 100 works of art are on view in this groundbreaking exhibition that highlights the roles of folk and self-taught artists as figures who are central to the shared history of America and whose contributions to the national conversation are paramount. Self-Taught Genius features masterpieces in a variety of forms including textiles and needlework, ceramics, sculptural and carved figures, drawings, paintings, furniture, and much more, dating from the 18th century to the present.

The exhibition considers the shifting implications of a self-taught ideology in the United States, from a widely endorsed movement of self-education to its current usage to describe artists working outside traditional frames of reference and art history. Self-taught art, past and present, blurs boundaries between disciplines, questions the definition of art, and forces us to reconsider our assumptions about what art truly is. These “self-taught geniuses” have been active participants in the shaping of American visual culture, influencing generations of artists, and establishing lively artistic traditions.

Installation Photos

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In the Press

Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum is organized by the American Folk Art Museum. The exhibition and national tour are made possible by generous funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, as part of its 75th anniversary initiative.

Local presentation is sponsored by the Kleinheinz Family Foundation for the Arts and Education.