There's an inspiring and wacky solemnity in these organizations-high values reinforced through pageantry and performance in an ecumenical social setting-which deep down must also have been a whole lot of fun. Now it's as if that foundational Other America, that underpinning of the America we kw, has gradually eroded, and here we remain, living in a world that is a mere shell, a movie set, of the world that made our world manifest, that brought it into being, and all we have left are these perplexing masks, banners, and costumes to puzzle over. -David Byrne, from the foreword Featuring more than two hundred outstanding objects gathered from private and public collections, As Above, So Below provides the first comprehensive survey of the rich vein of art created during the golden age of the American fraternal society. By the turn of the twentieth century, an estimated 70,000 local lodges affiliated with hundreds of distinct American fraternal societies claimed a combined five and a half million members. It has been estimated that at least 20 percent of the American adult male population belonged to one or more fraternal orders, including the two largest groups, the Freemasons and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The esoteric kwledge, visual symbols, and moral teachings revealed to lodge brothers during secret rituals inspired an abundant and expressive body of objects that form an important facet of American folk art. Lynne Adele and Bruce Lee Webb introduce the reader to fraternal societies and explore the function and meaning of fraternal objects, including paintings and banners, costumes and ceremonial regalia, ritual objects, and an array of idiosyncratic objects that represent a grassroots response to fraternalism. Setting the art in historical context, the authors examine how fraternal societies contributed to American visual culture during this era of burgeoning fraternal activity. Simultaneously entertaining and respectful of the fraternal tradition, As Above, So Below opens lodge room doors and invites the reader to explore the compelling and often misunderstood works from the golden age of fraternity, once largely forgotten and w coveted by collectors.
Lynne Adele, an independent art historian with an extensive art museum and commercial art gallery background, has specialized in the work of self-taught, folk, and outsider artists for more than twenty-five years. She has written and contributed to numerous exhibition catalogs, books, and journals on American folk art; her exhibition catalog Spirited Journeys: Self-Taught Texas Artists of the Twentieth Century has become a standard reference in the field. Bruce Lee Webb has been a collector of fraternal objects for more than twenty-five years. He is a 32 * Scottish Rite Mason, Royal Arch Mason, Cryptic Mason, and Knight Templar; he is also an Odd Fellow and is a Royal Purple degree member of the Odd Fellows Encampment. He has been initiated into the Order of the Eastern Star, the Rebekahs, and the Knights of Pythias. He and his wife Julie own Webb Gallery, which specializes in the work of self-taught, folk, and outsider artists.