Art environments are as unique as the individuals who have created them," writes Umberger, but she may as well have said that the individuals are as unique as the environments they create. The bulk of this coffee-table book consists of illustrated biographies of more than 20 of these artists. They created first and foremost for themselves, to decorate the world around them, to occupy their time and their mind, to stave off loneliness, even for self-preservation. This is the joy of folk art: it is personal and generous. David Butler saw his art as protective charms. Emery Blagdon, who watched both of his parents die following painful illnesses, called his creation The Healing Machineand felt that it "sent energy coursing through the room and drew deleterious matter out of an afflicted body." The biographies and photographs (both historic) and lavish, full-color documentary photos provide the best, possibly the sole, access to these imagined worlds for a larger audience. The book also justifiably promotes the preservation and collection work being done by the Kohler Arts Center, where Umberger is a senior curator, which specializes in built environments, particularly in the Midwest. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds: Built Environments of Vernacular Artistsby Ruth Kohler, Erika Lee Doss (Contribution by)
The need to personalize our surroundings is a defining human characteristic. For some this need becomes a compulsion to transform their personal surroundings into works of art. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, has undertaken the mission to preserve these environments, which are presented for the first time in Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds. This colorful and inspiring book features the work of twenty-two vernacular artists whose locales, personal histories, and reasons for art-making vary widely but who all share a powerful connection to the home as art. Featured projects range from art environments that remain intact, such as Simon Rodia's Watts Towers in California, to sites lost over the years such as Emery Blagdon's six hundred elaborate "Healing Machines," made of copper, aluminum, tinfoil, magnets, ribbons, farm-machinery parts, painted light bulbs, beads, coffee-can lids, and more.
Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds is the first book to explore these spectacularly offbeat spaces in detail. From "Original Rhinestone Cowboy" Loy Bowlin's wall-to-wall glitter-and-foil living room to the concrete bestiary of "witch of Fox Point" Mary Nohl, each artist and project is described in detail through a wealth of visuals and text. Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds reminds us that our decorative choices tell the world not just what we like but who we are.
- Princeton Architectural Press
- Publication date:
Meet the Author
Leslie Umberger is senior curator of exhibitions and collections at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Erika Doss is a writer, art historian, editor, and professor. She has published a number of books, including the recent Twentieth-Century American Art.
Ruth DeYoung Kohler is a curator and vice president for the arts at the Wisconsin Academy for Sciences, Arts and Letters.
Lisa Stone is the curator for the Roger Brown Study Collection, house museum, and special collection of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
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