James Edward Deeds: Drawn from the Asylum

 In Future Exhibitions

James Edward Deeds: Drawn from the Asylum

September 2 – December 31, 2023

Featuring 23 works generously loaned from the collections of the American Folk Art Museum and the collection of Frank S. Tosto, this fall, Fenimore Art Museum explores the work of James Edward Deeds (1908-1987) while he was a patient at State Hospital for the Insane No. 3 in Nevada, MO. Throughout his time in the hospital Deeds delicately executed numerous pencil and crayon drawings. His scenes are innocent, often fanciful, and notably focus on subjects including the circus, the Civil War, politics, garden designs, architecture, animals, and portraits. Almost all are brought to life with various titles and annotations creatively spelled and often puzzling. Deeds’ portraits, with their arresting gazes, odd vintage costumes, and elaborate accouterments, are perhaps his most ambitious, inspired, and unforgettable images. They are also his most distinctive contribution to the Outsider Art canon: each featuring the same mesmerizing, enlarged pupils, gray-shaded noses, thin, pursed mouths, and exaggerated chins.

This exhibition offers the opportunity to present important issues of artmaking and the history of mental health treatment in the United States. Further informed and examined by the research of Terry Bragg, archivist and Historian of the McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA who presents new context to Deeds’ life and work while also examining the history of mental health treatment between the 1930s and 1970s, when Deeds would have been a patient.


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