Imagination is More Important than Knowledge

Albert Einstein is credited with that statement, and it’s painted boldly on the wall at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD.

On first thought I agree with it vehemently.
But then…without knowledge some imagined ideas could never me implemented.
And yet, if you partner with the right person/people, anything is possible.
And that, I think is the key. You don’t need to have both. But without imagination, we’ll swirl in our own ruminations and not try anything new.

Return to our Regularly Scheduled Programming: Visionary Art

But that philosophical debate is not the point today. Today we’re talking about Visionary Art. What’s that you ask? It’s art that you’ll never find in a gilded frame–unless done ironically.

Some people call it “outsider,” others call it “raw.” The creators of it are untrained (such audacity) and often make quite quirky things. But quirk should not diminish the talent or message (when there is one). Sometimes a whirligig is just a whirligig. But a five-foot-diameter bra ball has a message, you can be sure.

The fact that this art is typically made from everyday objects is what draws me to it: paper plates form a dimensional mural that fills a wall; toothpicks create a nine-foot sculpture of San Francisco; salvage yard scraps and ping pong paddles are glued together to create the perfect pig. Styrofoam cups are carved into caricatures with facial hair and facial expressions–who thinks of this? There’s painting, too, with a style that no king would ever commission.

To be clear, this isn’t Folk Art, although the two are often confused. Folk Art comes from an ethnic tradition or is based on a geography. Think of Native American dolls or Amish quilts.

Visionary Art MusuemHow To Convey the Spirit of the Visionary Art Museum

When you tell people you went to an art museum they can picture it in their minds. Soft lighting, appropriately colored walls, galleries that feed into each in a way that my orderly mind finds stressful.

This museum is not like that….

Glittery, mirrored sculptures hang from the ceiling here and there. There are funny newspaper articles in the loo to keep you entertained at all times. To make sure you know that this alcove has art, too, there’s furry circles glued to the hot pink wall. Are you beginning to understand that this museum is (spectacularly) different?

Upon arrival I immediately called dear friend Cori and told her that if she were a museum, this would be it! You don’t all know Cori, so let me expand. Expound? Whatever.

  • Finding beauty every day and in every-day objects
  • Humor that surprises you and feels at ease at the same time
  • Surrounding yourself with homey and loved objects
  • Creating a space for relaxing; no pretenses
  • Fun, colorful, and vibrant

Let’s Take a Look, Shall We?

I’m limited to postcards and the outdoor art, so it’s just a taste. Go to the website for a glimpse of more. And better yet: go visit!

American Visionary Arts Musuem

Picture 1 of 5

20?-foot tall whirligig

Karma Exhibit

Hanging along the curved staircase, the exhibits continue. This one entailed postcard-size papers clearly handed out to folks throughout the day and across town. They wrote confessions, my definition, although the exhibit title was “Karma.” Some were simply words and some had images–post-production? Doesn’t matter.

These were my favorites:

  • I’m about to become a doctor but still giggle at the word “nipples”
  • [With a Seattle’s Best Coffee logo] When you’re rude to me I make you drink decaf
  • When people in the library make a noise, I secretly hope that they do really badly in their exams!
  • [Toys for Tots logo] I’m much happier buying gifts for needy and thankful strangers than my own ungrateful relatives. Merry Christmas strangers!
  • I always leave the good luck penny for someone else and wish them the best day of their life when they pick it up
  • I like to eat marshmallows in the shower

Welcome to the Immature Section of this Post

I want you to pull my finger

I know you’re not supposed to take pictures but I couldn’t resist!

We’re going to talk about farts now. Is it better if I call it flatulence? Hey, it was at an art museum, so I’m just being sophisticated and worldly.

Yes, there really was an exhibit about farts and it was the funniest thing I’ve seen. A column adorned with jewels and mirrors displays a finger, wait for it, to be pulled. And when you pull it, all sorts of juicy fart noises are produced. Giggle worthy, sure. When I took my turn, the finger got stuck and kept going for minutes, which had me doubled over with laughter and my hands were shaking. It would be quiet for a minute and then another one would rip. And so would a peel of laughter. Nothing brightens the day or unites a group of strangers like fart jokes.

In addition to the multimedia portion, there were also 50 or so fake book covers related to farting.

  • Harvey, the boy who couldn’t fart
  • Fart proudly.
  • Writings of Benjamin Franklin you never heard in school
  • Fart without fear cookbook
  • The cure for farting in bed to eliminate nocturnal flatulence

Plus melted plastic or glass to represent our um, productivity, with titles like Picasso Poop and Salvador Dali Toot.

So wrong yet so right….

Bra Ball

Bra Ball Artist Emily Duff collected 18,085 bras from women everywhere. Why? To symbolize what the bras mean to them: breast cancer and domestic violence to romance and awkward youthful moments. The women included colorful and wrenching letters with their submissions, happy to be rid of their wares.

Hooked end-to-end, the Bra Ball is five-feet in diameter in weighs 1,800 pounds!

Related Reading

  • The Incredible, Indelible Hand Stamp – adoration for the hand stamp from this fine establishment. It’s cute, and a quick read. Go for it!
  • The Artist and the Anthropologist – about a visit with my cousins, one who is an “outsider” artist, weaving coffee stirrers into incredible room-size installations. (He should be part of the rotating exhibit here)


What kind of art do you like? Be honest. You can like gold-leaf; it’s personal and just because I think a bra ball is compelling doesn’t mean I want one in my living room!


Disclaimer: Thank you to the American Visionary Arts Museum for complimentary entrance. I had a wonderful time! Can you tell?

5 Responses


Thank you for this post. This museum is now a must-see on my travel list. Partially because of the nearly endless peels of laughter generated by the farts exhibit! Laughter is good for the soul and I’m up for increasing my


fun eclectic collection & post. imagination is more important than knowledge—as with many things, i would have to say that there is no absolute, certainly variations coupled with the diversity of experience yields an inspiring wealth.

Beautifully said!


I can’t wait to visit myself one day in Baltimore! Thank you for sharing this wonderful place and piece of your adventures with me. When you called from here it was such a treat and this fantastic post allowed me to relive it. This museum sounds like home away from home.


This one tickled me! 🙂 May have to go pull that finger myself!

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