Famed outsider artist Gregory Warmack, better known to his friends and fans in Bethlehem and across the world as Mr. Imagination, has died in an Atlanta hospital, according to The Chicago Sun Times.
Mr. I, as he was often called, became well-known for fanciful creations made of discarded items like paint brushes, ping-pong paddles and lots and lots of bottle caps.
A Chicago native, Warmack moved to Bethlehem in 2002 “to get more peace and green in his life,” according to the Facebook page of Intuit, the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art in Chicago.
Artists like Mr. Imagination are known as "outsider" or "intuitive" artists because they have had no formal arts education or training.
Mr. I became a fixture in the local arts community, working at the Banana Factory teaching children and creating art that added a distinctive character to the space around the gallery, including the “bottlecap mule” and the unique painted and bejeweled bus shelter that sits on Third Street outside of the gallery.
On its Facebook page, the Banana Factory paid tribute to Mr. Imagination:
“R.I.P. Mr. Imagination. We love you and thank you for all the blessings you have shared with us over the years at the Banana Factory. Whether it was teaching our children, working on the infamous bottle cap mule or creating a wonderland out of a bus shelter, you were and always will be in our heart. We were honored to have known you. And we will always remember you by the wonderful artworks you created here at the Factory.”
Warmack had a SouthSide home that was also his studio and personal gallery. He would often receive guests and invite them to sit on his throne – a kingly seat made in his own inimitable style, decorated with bottle caps, costume jewels and other discarded items.
But in 2008, a fire gutted the house, destroying many of his own works and the works of other artists he collected. His pets, a dog, “Pharaoh,” and three kittens he named “Peace,” “And,” and “Love” also perished in the blaze.
Distraught over the ordeal, Mr. Imagination decided to move to Atlanta in 2009. Gregory Warmack was 64 years old.