Anna Zemánková at the Museum of International Folk Art

Anna Zemánková, Untitled (circa 1960s), oil pastel on paper

Interest in the paranormal and the occult has permeated life and culture in the Czech Republic since the Middle Ages. Alchemists and astrologers filled the Hapsburg court of Emperor Rudolf II, literary characters such as Dr. Faust and Mephistopheles haunted Bohemian Prague, and folkloric creatures like the Golem roamed the streets of its ghettos. Artist Anna Vesela (1908-1986), was born in a region of Moravia — believed to be inhabited by wood fairies. She grew up learning the craft of needlework and studied music and dance. In the 1960s, under her married name, Anna Zemánková, and now a housewife and mother, she began making surreal, biomorphic drawings of delicate beauty and unexpected imagery that may startle the observer with its intensity. Known today as an outsider artist, Zemánková, driven to create by an inner compulsion, would often manipulate her paper by crimping it and adding embroidery, crochet, and appliqué. She’s one of five artists featured in the online exhibition Vernacular Visionaries, which opened onsite at the Museum of International Folk Art in 2003 and ran through August 2004. Outsider art typically refers to work made by people with little to no connection to the mainstream art world and is made by artists who lack formal training. It often expresses the extreme mental conditions and unconventional ideas of its makers. The exhibition also includes works by Gedewon (Ethiopia), Martín Ramírez (Mexico), Hung Tung (Taiwan), and Carlo Zinelli (Italy). The online exhibit is ongoing and be accessed at online.internationalfolkart.org/vernacularvisionaries.

Museum of International Folk Art, 706 Camino Lejo, 505-476-1200, international folkart.org

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