Reclusive Painter’s World Lives on Through AVAM Gallery Mr. Eddy Lives! Reviewed by Nina Lerner.
Before he took up painting, Eddy Mumma was a reclusive, alcoholic double-amputee. He had been ailing ever since his wife died young of breast cancer. He lost both his legs years later to diabetes. One day, his grown daughter Carroll suggested he try an art class at age 60. Luckily for them both, her suggestion was right on the nose. Eddy had found his calling.
On the third-floor of the American Visionary Art Museum is a display of Eddy’s best work. The room is almost slanted and has red, blue and black-and-white walls. The paintings all look strikingly similar. The black-and-white wall is entirely covered in portraits with only inches between them. Each face is square, most with shoulder-length hair (making them look like different medieval knights). On every face, a dark brow line frames an eye, traces down the nose, and then swings back up to create the other brow bone. These distinctive eyes make the people in the portraits look related; they all are from the same world.
This reality Eddy creates is immediately immersive. All of Eddy’s paintings use the same thick brushstrokes of pure, bright colors. Other aspects of the world take shape with farm animals, forest homes and a huge ocean landscape with loose strokes and enticing tropical colors. Creatures and objects alike are simplified to their basic form and then amplified by Eddy’s imagination and thick paintbrush. He signs each painting largely and proudly; all these pieces clearly belong to the realm of Mr. Eddy.
This art envelopes you in the world Eddy created for himself. For most of his adult life, Eddy was depressed and alone. Standing in that gallery room, surrounded on all sides by his creations, one cannot feel alone or abandoned; his work is inviting and joyful. His studio became a whole world full of color and wonder, in which to take shelter from a dark reality.
Several well-known figures are included in this exhibit, including George Washington, Henry VIII, the Mona Lisa, and even the Quaker Oats guy. Each maintain their identity, but fit perfectly into Eddy’s oeuvre. They belong in his realm as much as they do in ours. Within this highly imagined and articulated world, a viewer can be mesmerized and feel entirely at home within the community Eddy created to bring joy to himself and to others.
Mr. Eddy Lives! will be on display at AVAM through April 3rd, 2016.
Nina Lerner is a writer, filmmaker, New Yorker, dog lover and chronic disappointment to her parents. She writes for the JHU-based comedy newspaper The Black and Blue Jay and once had a glamorous, unpaid summer internship for a talent agency in NYC. She loves the theater, horrible sports teams and Paul McCartney. Her parents are actually very proud of her.