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Delightfully Obsessively Compulsively

OCD-Grace Bashara GreeneIOCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Delight! A new exhibit on the third floor of the American Visionary Art Museum celebrates and acknowledgs the many remarkable creative contributions that a dash of OCD can help bestow.

"OCD" is the traditional medical abbreviation for what can be a very serious mental illness — Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder — a disease in which sufferers may fixate on cleanliness, order, and ritualized repetition of words or actions to a degree that can dramatically impair the conduct of their daily lives, relationships, and work. In its more benign manifestations, OCD can serve as a key ingredient in the process of generating prolific, intensely focused, and often meticulously detailed creative production of all sorts. Hyper-conscientious teachers, researchers, theorists, chefs, medical staff, writers, performers, sports stars, and visionary artists frequently display elements of OCD behavior that actually aid in bringing about extraordinarily beneficent results and performances.
OCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Delight has been created from works by the legendary visionary artist Ted Gordon, Ted’s late wife, Zona, and the late Grace Bashara Greene (shown). All of these works have generously been donated to the permanent collection of the American Visionary Art Museum.

paintersThe walls were still being painted at AVAM last week, in preparation for the installation of the feature exhibit "Race, Class, Gender ≠ CHARACTER." I got hold of Rebecca Hoffberger, the founding director of AVAM, long enough to ask three quick questions.

Ionarts: How far in advance do you plan exhibits?

Rebecca: Our museum first opened over Thanksgiving 1995 - we're turning 10 soon. Before we opened our doors I selected the first 11 themes based on the grand spiritual and ethical themes prevalent in both the art of contempory visionary artists and likewise explored by visionaries throught time. Last year with the prescient (the tsunami and the water destruction of New Orleans all happened in the show's run) "Holy H2O: Fluid Universe" exhibition, we began the next series of exhibition themes, now set through 2011. My staff know what they are, so if I'm hit by a bus - no problem.

rebeccaWhere did the theme for "Race, Class, Gender ≠ CHARACTER" come from?

You know how if you buy an appliance they ask you to fill out on the warranty card how much your household income is? Or how many times you have to check a box to say if you're male or female, or of a specific ethnic or racial origin? Well, it seems to me the healthiest refocus is on CHARACTER - what we value most in ourselves and in others, not if we have a penis or a vagina or what skin tone we have. My staff is spooked out that the words "Race/Class" are now being featured in the news because of the tragedy of who lived and who died so disproportionately in New Orleans. Visionaries have always dreamed of a world where no one was limited by the surface factors of race or class or gender. I think the next generation is going to be our most universally healing one and will deal with gender, race, and class in a way I have not seen treated elsewhere.

So many wonderful things have happened since the museum opened, besides me, what are you most proud of?

1. Our faithfulness to the founding vision. 2. Last year's doubling with the new Jim Rouse Visionary Center expansion on time and on budget, with an even greater way to publicly emphasize that creative acts of social justice are the real performance art of life. 3. The election of artist Sandra Magsamen as our board Chair (she totally gets us). 4. Our wonderful urban campus complete with Speakers Corner (first speaker was George Soros) and outdoor movie theater that reminds people that community under the stars is so beautiful. 5. That our exhibitions uplift so many in time where too many have given up. 6. The upcoming June 17th & 18th 2006 Rumi Festival with Coleman Barks; and of course, that Mark Barry "really, really loves us" - a tough guy to please.

Yes, but a tender heart! Stay tuned. When the show is hung, in a week or so, I'll post some pictures.

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