The collection of Audrey B. Heckler is emblematic of the growth of the field of self-taught art in the United States, which manifests a strong interest for African American artists, a consistent attention on American classics, a curiosity for European art brut, and a search for international discoveries. For the last twenty-seven years, Heckler—a long time and committed patron of the American Folk Art Museum—has surrounded herself with excellent examples by the most significant artists associated to this art niche, among them Emery Blagdon, Aloïse Corbaz, William Edmondson, August Klett, Augustin Lesage, Martín Ramírez, Thornton Dial, and Anna Zemánková.
The perspective for this exhibition is centered on an individual approach to each work and its creator. The viewer is invited to consider the artworks as memory palaces—known as the “method of loci”—visualizations used to organize and recall stores of information in an ever-expanding mental landscape. The one hundred and sixty works selected, created by more than seventy artists, are paired with primary and secondary sources (artist statements, oral histories, interviews, and museum archives) or offered a closer look in the form of case studies, considering their visual grammar, technical ingenuity, and materiality.