The majority of the art in this exhibit represents works related to both the various Masonic orders and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a religiously and politically independent fraternal order of odd fellows founded in 1819 by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland, United States.
The website of the American Museum of Folk Art describes the exhibit in these words:
Enigmatic, evocative, and often simply strange, fraternal references are a rich part of contemporary American popular culture. But the seductive mystique of secret societies, with their cryptic signs, gestures, and arcane rituals, has been inculcated in our American experience since the early eighteenth century. Before the age of mass production, the artist who painted a portrait or embellished a piece of furniture might have also decorated a parade banner, an apron, symbols on a chart, or a backdrop for a fraternal lodge. More important, he or she encoded the ideals of fellowship, labor, charity, passage, and wisdom—the core of fraternal teachings—into the many forms associated with fraternal practice. The iconic art and objects showcased in Mystery and Benevolence relate the tenets of fraternal belief through a potent combination of highly charged imagery, form, and meaning. The exhibition explores the fascinating visual landscape of fraternal culture through almost two hundred works of art comprising a major gift to the American Folk Art Museum from Kendra and Allan Daniel.
Since the American Folk Art Museum opened in 1961, it has focused on the remarkable traditions of art by the self-taught , commonly referred to as Folk Art. It has been a center of scholarship which has sought to educate the public about the creativity of artists with unique talents that have been forged through personal experience rather than one or another form of structured artistic training. The museum considers folk art to reflect the true values of American culture. Its collection includes more than seven thousand artworks dating from the eighteenth century to the present, from portraits and quilts to works by living folk artists in a variety of mediums.
Co-curators: Stacy C. Hollander, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Chief Curator, and Director of Exhibitions, American Folk Art Museum, and Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. An exhibition catalog will be available.
American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square
(Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets)
New York, NY 10023
212. 595. 9533
Admission is free