Photo Collection: Cleveland Museum of Art
by Herbert Ascherman (American, b. 1947)
The Artist Project: Rev. Albert Wagner
The Reverend Albert Wagner (1924-2006) was born to sharecroppers in rural Arkansas, where he remembered loving to draw imaginary cars and airplanes (he had never been in either). His mother told him that if she had the money to send him to art school he might become a great artist. He left school after the third grade and eventually moved north to Cleveland, Ohio with his mother and brothers.
After many years in the furniture moving business, Albert's childhood dream of becoming an artist came true. While cleaning up his house for his fiftieth birthday party, he was inspired by drips and splatters of paint that had stained an old board. From that moment he devoted himself to his art. His three story East Cleveland house is now home to both his People Love People House of God Ministry (basement) and the Rev. Albert Wagner museum and studio. Literally thousands of his drawings, paintings, sculptures and constructions were on display in every room of this unmistakable three story home. The Reverend's work is often religious, illustrating lessons from the Bible, but he also expresses his feelings on social matters and illustrates scenes from his childhood in the rural south.
He has been widely exhibited around the country, including shows at the Akron Museum of Art and the American Visionary Museum of Art in Baltimore. Reverend Wagner was the subject of an expose "Faith in Paint" in LIFE MAGAZINE, May 25, 1998.
“Albert Wagner found God and art at a gas station in Cleveland. Today, he (Wagner) is one of the most highly regarded outsider artists.” - Nik Cohn, Time Magazine, 1998
“When he (Wagner) was 5, his mother said that if she could only afford to send him to art school, he could be a great artist. Instead, he left elementary school after just three years, and eventually went north to Ohio, to the call of family, fortune and temptation.” -John Leland, New York Times, 2001
“The work of Reverend Albert Wagner is an absolutely unique and moving example of art and spirituality growing irrepressibly in harsh economic times, rising above racial prejudice and poverty.”
-Douglas-Max Utter, Artist