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Artist Beauford Delaney's portrait of writer James Baldwin, a friendship that inspired the artistic pursuits of both.

ASHEVILLE — A new exhibit going up at the Asheville Art Museum features the abstract works of a Knoxville-born artist whose artistic pursuits took him to New York and eventually Paris as a gay, Black man during the mid-20th century.

Featuring more than 40 paintings and works on paper, “Metamorphosis into Freedom” examines the career evolution of modern painter Beauford Delaney within the context of his 38-year friendship with writer James Baldwin, who witnessed Delaney’s evolution — which he deemed “one of the most extraordinary personal and artistic journeys of our time."

The exhibit explores the ways that the artist and Baldwin’s ongoing intellectual exchange shaped one another’s creative output and worldview. Baldwin found in Delaney a father figure, muse, and model of perseverance as a gay man of color, who opened for him the transformative possibility that a Black man could become an artist. Delaney found in Baldwin a powerful intellectual and spiritual anchor who inspired some of his finest works and who provided vital emotional support and creative validation.

Beauford Delaney’s Metamorphosis into Freedom is organized by the Knoxville Museum of Art, which owns the largest and most comprehensive public collection of Beauford Delaney’s art. The exhibit runs April 2 and through June 21.

The Asheville Art Museum is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, except closed Tuesdays, with evening hours until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Located at 2 South Pack Square. 828.253.3227 or