Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art
The traveling exhibition Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art, curated by the American Folk Art Museum, showcases more than 80 intriguing and captivating objects, ranging from grave markers and serpent-headed staffs to embroidered textiles and ceremonial regalia. Recalling the golden age of American secret societies, the exhibition focuses on two fraternal brotherhoods, the Freemasons and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which have deep historical roots in America. The art associated with these fraternal practices is both mystical and evocative, often displaying an element of strangeness. It is rich in symbols that are simultaneously familiar and uncommon. Delving into the cryptic symbols and hieroglyphs used in the ceremonies and ritualized performances of these brotherhoods, Mystery and Benevolence unravels the histories of the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows. The folk art displayed in Mystery and Benevolence serves as a testament to the enduring allure of their clandestine rituals.