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Point of View: American Folk Art From the William and Ann Oppenhimer Collection

May 28 - August 15, 2004


(above: Minnie Adkins, Possum and Babies, 1993, paint on wood, 11 x 41 x 5 inches, The William and Ann Oppenhimer Collection) 


Point of View: American Folk Art from the William and Ann Oppenhimer Collection, an exhibition featuring more than 85 works of art by fifty artists -- including Howard Finster, Bessie Harvey and Noah Kinney -- collected over thirty years by William and Ann Oppenhimer of Richmond, Virginia, is on view at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, through August 15, 2004. (right: Howard Finster, The Woman of the Bible, #348, 1977, enamel on wood, 14-1/2 x 12 inches, The William and Ann Oppenhimer Collection) 

The most important self-taught artists working since World War II are represented in the Oppenhimer exhibition, and these artists's depictions of an evolving society vary widely. From the idyllic landscape of Uncle Jack Dey's imagination, to the severe social commentary and slick imagery of Robert Sholties and the painted sermons of Howard Finster and Prophet William Blackmon, Point of View brings into context an art form that is inimitably individual and American, yet, universally appreciated.

William and Ann Oppenhimer began collecting folk art after a visit with Miles Carpenter in Waverly, Virginia. Mrs. Oppenhimer recalls, "I discovered a wonderful person creating wonderful art, and this was the beginning of many visits to meet other artists and to see the art we came to know as folk art."

Their first visit set the tone for their collecting and gave the Oppenhimers a mission: to meet all of the artists whose work they collected. Their purposeful travels have taken them numerous places, including Pinnacle, North Carolina, to the home of artist James Harold Jennings, who lived and worked in five school buses.

In 1982 the Oppenhimers met and befriended Howard Finster, perhaps the best-known American folk artist, at his home in Summerville, Georgia. Ann Oppenhimer remarks "With our car full of Finster's small cut-outs, scrap art, gourds and mirrored boxes, we drove away, and our lives have never been the same." The Oppenhimers remained close friends with the artist until his death in 2001. (right: Shields Landon Jones, Head of a Woman, 1989, paint on wood with fabric bow, 14-1/2 x 8 x 8 inches, The William and Ann Oppenhimer Collection) 

For more than 3 decades, William and Ann Oppenhimer have shared a passion for collecting folk art. In 1987, they founded the Folk Art Society of America; an organization committed to the discovery, study, exhibition and preservation of contemporary American folk art. As a couple, they have photographed, documented and written about more than a hundred artists. They have organized and conducted numerous national conferences of the Folk Art Society of America. Their decision to start the Folk Art Society resulted from the success of a Howard Finster festival organized by Ann Oppenhimer at the University of Richmond in 1984. In 1987, the society was formed as a nationwide organization, which hosts annual conferences and publishes articles by fellow scholars and collectors in its journal. The Oppenhimers also publish the acclaimed Folk Art Messenger from their hometown of Richmond, Virginia. A portion of the funds raised by the society is used to purchase and donate works of folk art to museums each year; the Morris Museum of Art benefited from this program in 2003 when it was given a painting from Atlanta's Lorenzo Scott.

The Oppenhimers continue to play a vital role in the appreciation, collection, and exhibition of American folk art. Their devotion to the craftsmanship, ingenuity, and social expression exemplified by self-taught artists has helped them build an unrivaled collection. The Morris Museum of Art is delighted to feature this exhibition and share with our members and guests, one of the most soulful, expressive, and culturally significant art forms in modern American culture.

Organized by the Marsh Gallery of the University of Richmond, Point of View has toured continuously since 2002. The tour has previously appeared at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, Farmville, Virginia; Terrace Gallery of the City of Orlando, Orlando, Florida; and the Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, Virginia; among other venues. A seventy-two-page catalogue published by University of Richmond Museums accompanies the exhibition. (right: Robert Sholties, Nature Lovers, 1991, acrylic on canvas, 44 x 60 inches, The William and Ann Oppenhimer Collection)


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