Single Gallery Exhibitions
Mr. Eddy Lives!
April 11, 2015 – April 3, 2016
3rd floor gallery, Zanvyl A. Krieger Main Building
"Oh I am a lonely painter I live in a box of paints." – Joni Mitchell (painter/singer/songwriter) excerpted from her song, "A Case of You"
The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) presents Mr. Eddy Lives!, featuring 109 paintings and portraits by the late Florida outsider artist Eddy Mumma (aka Mr. Eddy), a recluse and double amputee whose solace and delight was in the production of explosively joyful paintings. The largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Mr. Eddy's work to date, this voluminous yearlong show opens April 11, 2015 in the 3rd floor gallery of AVAM's Zanvyl A. Krieger Main Building.
Eddy Gallimore Mumma was born July 14, 1908 in Milton, Ohio to devoted Christian Scientist parents. Tall and powerfully built, Eddy marries Thelma Louise Huebner in 1936, settling near Springfield, Ohio. Two years later their only child is born, a daughter they name Carroll Lee Mumma. The young Mumma family purchases a modest farm and then a larger one, sharing the property with Thelma's mother, Stella, and a few renters for extra income. In 1956, Eddy loses his wife to breast cancer. She is only 44 years old, and Eddy drinks heavily to ease his sadness. He moves to Gainesville, Florida in 1967 to be near his daughter and her family. Diabetes costs Eddy the loss of one leg, and eventually the other. Cataracts lead him to the brink of blindness, but eye surgery greatly restores his sight.
In early 1969, Carroll suggests that Eddy, now 60, try a painting class. He does, gets insulted by criticism from the instructor on the first day, and walks out never to return. He takes home the paints and is hooked. Eddy's painting begins filling more and more of his tiny home, spilling over to cover even the surfaces of his radiator, kitchen cabinets, stove, and refrigerator. His son-in-law and two grandchildren bring art supplies and ask that he use both sides of the canvases, because he runs through them so quickly. Art professor, bohemian musician, and big-hearted force of nature, Lennie Kesl, becomes Eddy's close friend and ardent admirer at a time when Eddy is increasingly reclusive, self-conscious about losing his legs, and uninterested in interrupting his private inner world filled with art production. Kesl also brings art supplies to Eddy, who is adamant he has no interest in any public showing or commercial sale of his art. Lennie is convinced Mumma is a true genius and shares a few paintings Eddy gifted him with Josh Feldstein, his close friend. Feldstein is immediately smitten.
At Mr. Eddy's death in 1986, Feldstein happens to pass by Mr. Eddy's home as the family is clearing out years of clutter. He acquires a great trove of paintings directly from Mr. Eddy's family. Many canvases are stuck together, some are insect encrusted, and Feldstein takes on the long task of their loving conservation. Feldstein observes, "Mr. Eddy created a wonderful world for himself that I have been lucky enough to experience while living with these paintings for the past 30 years. The images are simple but evocative, expressively colorful and playful, yet full of emotion." In January of 2015, The Historic Thomas Center Galleries of Gainesville, Florida showcased a sensational solo exhibition of Eddy Mumma's work, curated by Anne Gilroy, in tribute to this reclusive Gainesville treasure.
Rebecca A. Hoffberger, AVAM founder and curator of Mr. Eddy Lives! remarks: "Standing in front of Mr. Eddy's work and imagining him wholly engulfed in such radiantly happy colors and thick, luxuriant paint—momentarily knowing nothing of lost limbs, hellish Florida heat, or loneliness—we are reminded what restorative, soul-saving, powers art has the grace to grant us all. Perhaps cartoonist and philosopher, Lynda Barry, put it best: 'We don't create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.'"