A major collection within the AMSET permanent collection is that of the larger than life totem-like sculptures of Felix “Fox” Harris.
For over 20 years, Harris crafted his sculptures of recycled materials and displayed them in his yard, creating a forest-like environment. Harris was inspired to make art by a vision from God telling him to set aside his old life and make a new one. God told him to “make somethin’ out of nothin,’” he said. Harris took this to mean that not only should he reform his ways, but that he should literally take found objects and give them new life. In time, Harris constructed a forest of totems, some as tall as 15 feet, made from scrap metal, old toys, street markers and other discarded objects.
These significant pieces of folk art were donated to AMSET after Harris’ death in the mid 1980s and have had a tumultuous history at the museum, through numerous installation locations, de-installations due to threats of inclement weather and subsequent long-term storage. Finally in August 2007, AMSET unveiled Somethin' Out of Nothin': The Works of Felix "Fox Harris, a semi-permanent gallery and glorious new resting place for the Beaumont treasures.
The stunning exhibit mimics Harris’ original home site, featuring two mural-sized photos of the home by internationally renowned photographer Keith Carter and an installation of 26 Harris totems. Also included will be educational materials, photographs and the ball-peen hammer and butter knife Harris used to fashion his sculptures. In addition, AMSET has gathered interviews and photos and created an interactive Web site to educate people on a global scale about Harris and his works, as well as published a hardcover book on the artist.
According to AMSET education department staff, who guide tours through the museum, many AMSET visitors find the Harris sculptures some of the most interesting pieces of artwork in the AMSET permanent collection, and AMSET is proud to be able to display this great cultural artifact.