Our Visionaries

Current Exhibition:

The Great Mystery Show

The Great Mystery Show

Oct 7, 2017–Sep 2, 2018

From psychics to physicists, The Great Mystery Show artfully peels away the veil of the unknown, playfully exploring mystery as that one secret power behind great art, science, and pursuit of the sacred.


Bobby Adams, Collected photographs, 1960s-present, Courtesy of the artist

Bobby Adams

(1946– )

Bobby Adams was born Robert Reid Adams on February 15, 1946 in Dallas, Texas and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, a former boxer and strict—at times, brutal—disciplinarian, operated a floor sanding business in Dundalk. His beloved and gentle mother taught school and would eventually commit suicide in 1976.

Adams graduated in 1964 from Sparrows Point Senior High School, where, he says, the only wisdom he learned came via an exercise in typing class that required him to spell over and over: "There once was a man, they called him mad. The more he gave, the more he had."

Adams was designated 4-F (a candidate found to be unfit for military service after formal examination) due to his hearing and avoided being sent to Vietnam. He became a pirate radio DJ in the late-1960s, playing functions around Baltimore as The Psychedelic Pig and spinning records for a station he dubbed W.E.E.D. He assembled elaborate scrapbooks stuffed with psychedelic collages and philosophical, often humorous, musings to illustrate his DJ patter and circulate amongst listeners at gigs.

Bobby Adams, Collected photographs, 1960s-present, Courtesy of the artist

In 1970, he began working with John Waters, who filmed Pink Flamingos at the Baltimore County farm where Adams was living. Ever since, Adams has been the filmmaker's unofficial documentarian, taking photographs on film sets, chronicling the exploits of Waters' band of inclusive renegades, known as the Dreamlanders. "I never learned how to do the camera," notes Adams. "I just point and shoot. My approach is simple: I start with love, and the camera sees it."

Adams has made an art of maintaining friendships. A self-professed Christmas addict, he makes hundreds of personalized, handmade, labor-of-love holiday cards for friends and family each year. Inspired in part by Waters' own art making and an Edward Kienholz exhibition he chanced upon, Adams began making art in 1996, after the devastating loss of his adored toy poodle, Odie. He created 50 multi-media tribute pieces to Odie and installed them throughout his waterfront cottage. Before the opening of AVAM's The Big Hope Show in October 2015, Adams' art had never been exhibited publicly. On November 21, 2015, Bobby Adams was honored as AVAM's 2015 Artist Honoree at the museum's 20th anniversary Gala celebration.

An active member of Overeaters Anonymous since 2009, Adams believes everyone can benefit from the spiritual aspects of such programs. "It can take you to hopeful places you never dreamed imaginable," he says.