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Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw

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Art Institute / Chicago / Art

Joseph E. Yoakum, born in Missouri, didn’t dream of becoming an artist. He was born into poverty in 1890, and at age 10 decided to leave home and join the Great Wallace Circus. It was a golden age for circuses, and Yoakum traveled the country, working as a horse handler and a bill poster. After serving in W.W. I, he took a job as a railroad inspector, and then moved on to farm worker, miner, and seaman. It was only in 1962, when he was 71, that the possibility of making art dawned on Yoakum. After having a vision in his sleep, he set to work, creating some 2,000 drawings in different media before his death a decade later. These serene and haunting works are a testament to his poetic vision. —E.C.

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