From 2007 to 2012, the late architect Lebbeus Woods kept a blog that offered a peek into the mind of one of our most visionary contemporary creators.
All visitors to the American Visionary Art Museum get their hands stamped with a singe gazing blue eye, the logo for the museum that focuses on self-taught artists who use their work as an avenue for their personal vision. But while it’s an institution devoted to the inner voice, the museum is hardly an introverted place. In fact, its exterior is an overwhelming jumble of mosaics, strange sculptures embedded in the garden or riding motorcycles on the roof, and even a gold “hand of god” reaching out from one side. I visited on a recent rainy afternoon and even though the weather was dreary, the art inside and out of the museum was a flurry of whimsy and gleeful, almost manic, creation.
Most artists wouldn’t take on the staggering task of illustrating the end of the universe for their first major work, but then, most artists aren’t as driven in capturing the cosmic as Paul Laffoley. It was back in 1965 when he embarked on his artistic journey of diagramming the mystical and transcendental, starting with “The Kali-Yuga: The End of the Universe at 424826 A.D.,” a painting involving Hindu cosmology and symbolism of the end of the cycle of time. Earlier in the decade he’d studied classics, philosophy, and art history at Brown University and then architecture at Harvard (he was later involved with Minoru Yamasaki’s designs for the World Trade Center), and he worked for a time in the studio of the dimensionally experimental artist and architect Frederick Kiesler. But it was in Boston that the Massachusetts-born Laffoley would find his focus, creating intensely mapped paintings of sacred, spiritual, and scientific processes.