Picture yourself among the chicken bones, concrete and glitter!
Whether you are a scholar, artist, preservationist, educator, curator, art historian, collector or art devotee, you will find yourself immersed in the complex and fascinating subject of artist-built environments at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. The art museum, seated in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is known nationwide for its outsider art collection and artist-centric programming. Check out five amazing artist-built environments with ties to JMKAC. Every one of the enviros will make you wish for a teleportation app and a selfie stick. Enjoy!
1. Embrace the playfulness of Mary Nohl’s cottage
See yourself amidst the cottage environment created by Mary Nohl on the shore of Lake Michigan. Whimsical concrete statues, wood carvings, paintings and interior furnishings are arranged in the gallery to evoke her charming home. A re-creation of her living room and a panoramic photo of the lake transport exhibition visitors.
2. A machine for healing from Emery Blagdon
Over 30 years, Emery Blagdon (1907–1986) built an increasingly dense environment filled with sculptures made of baling wire and aluminum foil, brightly colored paintings, hand-painted lightbulbs, salts, and other organic matter. Blagdon called this constantly changing installation “The Healing Machine.” His intent was to channel the earth’s energies to alleviate pain and illness. Let the healing begin!
3. A Room at the Hotel Chelsea
Stella Waitzkin (1920–2003) fashioned her own personal vision, composing an art environment in her small fourth floor apartment at the famed Hotel Chelsea in New York City. Artist Rita Barros has documented the vibrant and ever-evolving spirit of the hotel, a haven for creatives of all walks including Beat writers, musicians, filmmakers, and visual artists.
4. Meet the Original Rhinestone Cowboy and visit the Beautiful Holy Jewel Home
In 1975, Loy Bowlin reinvented his life and transformed into the “Original Rhinestone Cowboy.” The Beautiful Holy Jewel Home (c.1975–1990), was Bowlin’s small, extravagantly embellished home in McComb, Mississippi. The artist added sparkle galore, adorning much of the exterior and nearly every inch of the interior with cutout paper, paint, glitter, and collaged photographs and magazine illustrations.
After Bowlin’s death in 1995 the Beautiful Holy Jewel Home was on the verge of demolition. A Houston artist and collector stepped in and purchased the home. It was dismantled and later gifted to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center where it has been restored and put on view.
5. Enter the regal realm of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein
Despite living in abject poverty, Eugene Von Bruechenhein created an incredible universe that told the story of a man who believed he was destined for greatness. In his West Allis, Wisconsin, home, elaborate chicken bone towers, vibrant paintings of the cosmos, delicate miniature thrones and stunningly composed images of his wife all reference the artist’s passion and larger-than-life sense of self.