Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What goes Round, comes Round at AVAM

"All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma"
September 7, 2011 - September 2, 2012
American Visionary Art Museum

On Thursday, October 6, Amy and I attended the "sneal preview" opening night party for the American Visionary Art Museum's new exhibit, "All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma." AVAM Founder/Director Rebecca Hoffberger's 17th annual show - co-curated with Mary Ellen "Dolly" Vehlow - bills itself as "a celebration and call to awareness of the circular and voluptuous nature of life" and features "the exuberant works of 70+ inspired, intuitive artists," including Scott Weaver's 100,000 toothpick wonder "Rolling Through The Bay," Adolf Wölfli's intricate mandala-like works, spherical sculptures of sight-impaired artists, the micro dot sock-thread embroideries of Ray Materson, Stephanie Lucas's Hieronymous Bosch-styled bestiary paintings, three-dimensional sacred yarn paintings made by the Huichol Indians, pictures of crop circles, Emily Duffy's giant "Bra Ball, and even gift shop employee Shawn Theron's 75,000-image digital camera montage of one year in his life.

The opening night galas at the AVAM are always a blast and the circular theme was evident even before we stepped inside the doors, as gaily-clad gals (and one dude) entertained onlookers by twirling glow-in-the-dark hoops round and round and round in the courtyard, creating parabolas of swirling colors that lit up the night like a July 4th fireworks celebration.

Watch the "Glo-Glo Go-Go Hula Hoop Hons" in action.

Day-glo hoopsters light up the Oct. 6 preview party...

...and trip the light fantastic!

Hipster Doofus crashes gender barrier to join hula hooping hons

After chowing down on the spread set up in the AVAM party barn, we headed inside for the exhibit proper. We took the roundabout way in.

We took a look a-round!

On our way in, we turned the corner and couldn't help but bump into Emily Duffy's buxotic "Bra Ball," whose cups had runneth over!

Sisterhood is powerful: the bodacious Bra Ball

Amy really liked Shawn Theron's year-in-the-life montage of digital photos, circle paintings, and spinning Tibetan prayer bells. Theron used to wait tables and manage the bar upstairs at the old Joy's America Cafe (which is now called Mr. Rain's Funhouse). Today his art is the first thing that greets visitors entering the museum, and you can't mis sthe man himself if you tried, because he currently works in the AVAM gift shop - where everyone ends up eventually before leaving! (Read more about Shawn Theron in Mary Carole McCauley's Baltimore Sun profile.)

But the highlight for us (admittedly among many highlights) was definitely seeing San Francisco artist Scott Weaver unveil and demonstrate his "Rolling Through the Bay" sculpture, which he calls the world's largest functioning toothpick sculpture. It took him over 42 years and 104,500 toothpicks to make (and even includes "Gay Pride"-colored picks for the Castro Street section) and he traveled over 3,000 miles to bring it from the West Coast to Charm's City for the AVAM show.

Scott Weaver with his Rolling Toothpick Revue (photo by Amy C. Davis/Baltimore Sun)

Scott Weaver's toothpick citiscape "Rolling Through the Bay"

Watch Scott explain the structure and demonstrate how to roll ping-pong balls through his hometown in the clip below by the Baltimore Sun's Amy C. Davis:


"I've got some dip stuck in my gums - you don't think he'd mind me borrowing just one little toothpick to get it out, do you?" Amy whispers surreptitiously

Detail from Scott Weaver's toothpick city showcasing its labrinthine chutes and ladders

Though "Rolling Through the Bay" may look more rectangular than round, it's actually filled with an abundance of cupolas, domes and other well-rounded shapes, making it an ideal structure for Weaver's ping-pong balls to navigate through. "It reminds me of that Milton Bradley game I used to have, 'Mousetrap'" Amy said, while Rebecca Hoffberger told the Baltimore Sun, "I've seen a lot of brilliant matchstick and toothpick work, but most people use them to make squares. There aren't very many artists like Scott who can make these incredible helixes and spirals."

(Read more about Scott Weaver's exhibit centerpiece in Mary Carole McCauley's Baltimore Sun review.)

Amy and I loved the new AVAM exhibit, but it was difficult to "take it all in" in one visit, especially the opening "preview night" when we had to navigate through so many hordes of people. So, we went back two days later when it was much less crowded - plus we could spend much more time (and money) in the gift shop!

"All life comes from eggs," Tom astutely observes outside the AVAM

Amy strikes her Art Babe Pose outside the AVAM

Devilish Amy got horny in the gift shop

Tom gets in touch with his feminine side (it wasn't hard!)

Amy pays props to her Wicca and Pagan peeps in this "Wicker Man" guise

"This pictures really jump out at you!" Amy attests

I felt a compulsion to visit my peeps in the OCD Gallery!

Dave Cawley Alert: Mazinger toy spotted in the gift shop!

Then, though we hadn't had a drop to drink, we got really twisted looking at ourselves in the funhouse mirrors outside the bathrooms on the second floor.

"Wow, instant Skinny Jeans!"

"Do these jeans make me look fat?"

"Hey, how'd you get in my pants leg?"

"That's MY pants leg now, sweetie!"

Finally, we checked out the massive collection of Pez dispensers on the third floor outside the AVAM's restaurant. We had never noticed them before, and were amazed at the variety on hand, from Star Trek and Star Wars to Pokemon and Ultraman figureheads.

On our way out, both Amy I agreed there was only one thing missing from the "All Things Round" exhibit: a picture of Ohio. "What's round on the end and hi in the middle?" I sang, to which we both replied "O-HI-O!" - a reference to the line in Devo's "Jocko Homo." Still, we were more than satisfied by this well-rounded new exhibit.

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