Past Exhibitions

What Makes Us Smile?

October 9, 2010 - September 4, 2011

Selected images from Smile:

About The Exhibition

"What Makes Us Smile?" is the American Visionary Art Museum's 16th year-long exhibition — a playful celebration of human joy that is co-curated by renowned creator of "The Simpsons," Matt Groening, artist Gary Panter – known for, among many other things, his whimsy behind Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse – and Museum founder Rebecca Hoffberger. "Smile" features the costumes, cartoons, out-loud & 3-D glee-filled surprises created by 90 artists, imps, and comedians with accompanying essays, factoids, quotes and blurbs that revel in the history and science behind the gift of laughter.

Among the highlights: The comedian Michael Baldwin's spectacular toy assemblages – created from five decades of dedicated dumpster-diving; the wickedly funny cartoons of the late quadriplegic artist John Callahan; and the comical, "unflattering" portraits by Rev. Aitor. Other exciting contributions include the comic visionary embroideries of Chris Roberts-Antieau and an homage to MAD Magazine including the glittering, beaded, beetle-winged bed by Patty Kuzbida.

Visitors will romp through a warren of mini galleries designed to explore some key aspect of humor – from its biological science to its many timeless, transcultural, delights. The galleries include: "HO-HO-HO HA-HA-HANUKKAH"; "More Tickle!" inspired by the favored signed words of Washoe, the first chimp to learn ASL; "Toot Suite!; "Holy Laughter"; "Tears to Laughter"; "Boo! Why Playing Monster is Fun" and the "Visionary Kid's Room."

2010-2011 Exhibition Ambassadors

Patch Adams, M.D., Medical Rights Activist, Author, Clown for Peace
Colin Eisler, Ph.D., Robert Lehman Professor at New York University
Eve Ensler, Playwright, Human Rights Activist
John Glover, Actor & Philanthropist
Beth and Jim Gold, President of Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman
Olga Hirshhorn, Collector & Philanthropist
Kathy Kinney, Actress, Comedienne, Author
Rosie O'Donnell, Comedienne, Actress, Activist
Joe Raiola, Senior Editor MAD magazine
Lizzie & Dan Routman, Philanthropist & Technology entrepreneur
Julie Reyes Taubman, Collector & Philanthropist
Frank Warren, PostSecret Creator
John Waters, Filmmaker & Artist
Doug Whatley, CEO of BreakAway Games

What makes YOU smile?

Images from AVAM's 3rd Floor Photo Booth, created & installed by onomonomedia.

View, download & share YOUR smiles at!

Special thanks to the generous sponsors of What Makes Us Smile?:

  • PLATINUM: Bank of America, Whiting-Turner, and Marilyn Meyerhoff
  • GOLD: Pat & Peter Handal, Marjorie Wyman Charitable Trust, Ted Frankel/Sideshow, Max's Taphouse, Urban Chic, The Krupp Center
  • SILVER: Brenda Brown-Lipitz Family Foundation, Brown Advisory, Edlin Charitable Foundation, Holly Sadeghian, Mike & Patty Batza, J. Vinton Schafer, Joan Coley, Dr. Kim Hammond, Falls Road Animal Hospital and The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, Leah Fried Sedwick, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield
  • BRONZE: Pepsi Beverages Company, Arnie & Alison Richman, John Glover, Rebecca Bruder, Kathy & Joel Sher, Venable, LLP, William B. Gilmore, Peter Snell, onomonoMEDIA LLC