Art Is a Laughing Matter at Baltimore’s Visionary Art Museum

BY Kiran Moodley and Molly Finnegan  November 9, 2010 at 4:37 PM EST

Displaying works by self-taught artists with little formal training, Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) is not your typical museum. It is a playful (and often inspiring) museum where the artists’ back stories are just as interesting as the art works themselves.

In celebration of AVAM’s 15 years of existence, founder and curator Rebecca Hoffberger decided to mount a year-long exhibition entitled, “What Makes Us Smile?”, a celebration of human joy as seen through an array of funny, happy or goofy drawings, paintings and sculptures, as well as the ever-present, ever-blowing, whoopee cushion bench.

Hoffberger points out that it’s during tough economic times like today that the culture often falls back on innocent — and even immature — pleasures. During the height of the Great Depression, sales of whoopee cushions soared.

Among the special curators for this exhibit is “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, who knows a thing or two about the art of laughter.

“What Makes Us Smile?” at the American Visionary Art Museum is on view until September 4, 2011.