Our Visionaries

Current Exhibition:

YUMMM! The History, Fantasy, and Future of Food.

Thru Sept. 3, 2017!

Our latest mega exhibition featuring 35 visionary artists exploring the human relationship with food.

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The Button Lady, Grace Bashara Greene, c. 1994, Gift of the artist

Grace Bashara Greene

(1928–2004)

Grace Bashara Greene was born on January 28, 1928 in Houston, Texas. She was the youngest of four daughters born to Sam and Rose Bashara, Lebanese immigrants from Beirut. In Houston, Grace's father prospered as a successful Texas oil merchant. Grace attended one year at the University of Houston majoring in fashion design. She dropped out when she became pregnant and married Howard Greene, the son of poor Arkansas farmers. Grace and Howard soon divorced, briefly remarried and divorced again, due largely to Howard's chronic abuse of alcohol. Their only child Elizabeth "Lizzy" Greene became the obsessive focus of Grace's abundant affection and attention.

Moving to a ramshackle, "bomb-proof," fifteen-room brick house inherited from her parents, Grace served as homeroom mother throughout all six-years of her daughter's elementary school education. Grace earned income as an insurance underwriter for truckers, a job she hated. After Lizzy grew up, left home and happily married Thomas "Tommy" Hargrove, Grace withdrew into a devastating depression. She spent the next 30 years virtually alone, becoming a compulsive collector and eventually filling her house nearly floor to ceiling with items she purchased from flea markets, antique shops, and yard sales. Grace had hoped to open a shop called "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" but could not bear to part with even a single item from her "collection."

In her solitude Grace began to create intricate artistic assemblages. By the 1990's, Grace's home had become a favorite spot in the popular annual Houston Orange Show Eyeopener's Tour. Her home was described as "a memory box, filled to the brink with her creations. Carefully cut and pasted fabrics, trays and spiraling shelves . . . a tribute to the enduring memories and experiences of her life as a woman who is both a mother and an artist." In 2000, Grace was a featured artist in Laurie MacDonald's documentary film Eyeopeners. Grace was also a featured artist in the American Visionary Art Museum's 2001 "Treasures of the Soul" exhibition, proudly attending the opening with her daughter Lizzy.

Grace's most beloved companions were her pets, especially her guard dog Midnight, whom she kept alive on a respirator long after he was hairless from old age. Lizzy says, "Mom hated to let anything go." Distrustful of nearly all but gay men, Grace was fond of saying things like, "Tommy should wash Elizabeth's feet and drink the water afterwards." After an onset of dementia and a fall that broke her hip and further aggravated her migraine headaches, Grace moved to a small cottage behind her daughter and son-in-law's house. There, Grace held court from an antique bed surrounded by prized objects of memory and smoked cigarettes right up until her death at age 76.