First published: Summer 1999
This summer, the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) pays tribute to its homeland of Baltimore, Maryland with an inspired trinity of three concurrent shows. First, America's official national museum for visionary art breaks tradition from its mega-exhibition schedule to offer 'Holy Fire: The Matchstick Artistry of Gerald Hawkes' in memory of the late African-American artist most personally involved in the museum's establishment.
Holding the single largest collection of Hawkes' sculptures and personal writings, AVAM showcases forty intricate matchstick sculptures, collages, and utilitarian objects from both its permanent collection and via choice loans.
'Holy Fire,' running from June 11, 1999 to January 9, 2000, captures the essence of Hawkes' primary artistic inspiration and love of God, family, and country. A heroin addict as a result of a brutal mugging that ended his work as a medical specialist, Gerald Hawkes died from complications of AIDS in April of 1998, four days after his fifty-fifth birthday. Per his request, his ashes were placed in the Museum's Wildflower Sculpture Garden. Curated by AVAM director and founder Rebecca Hoffberger, Holy Fire will travel in early 2000 to AVAM's sister institution, The Art Brut Collection, in Lausanne, Switzerland.