Sublime Spaces & Visionary Worlds

Built Environments of Vernacular Artists

Leslie Umberger, Erika Doss, Ruth Kohler, Lisa Stone

     9.75 × 12 in (24.8 × 30.5 cm)
416 pages
650 color illustrations, 100 b/w illustrations
Publication date: 11/1/2007
Rights: World
ISBN: 9781568987286

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.

Leslie Umberger is Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She has played a major role in the continuing development of the Arts Center's extensive collection of the work of self-taught, folk, and vernacular artists while also developing over 40 diverse changing exhibitions.

Erika Doss has worked extensively as writer, art historian, editor, and professor. She has published a number of books, including the recent Twentieth-Century American Art (Oxford University Press 2005) and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, among them a Smithsonian Fellowship and a Fulbright Senior Scholar award.

Ruth DeYoung Kohler has been the guiding vision for the Arts Center for over 34 years and has curated well over 100 exhibitions. She has also served as juror, speaker, and consultant throughout the United States, has been honored throughout the years for her commitment to the arts, and has received such awards as the Wisconsin's Governor's Award for the Arts; Visionary Award from the American Craft Museum, New York; honorary doctorates from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Lakeland College, and University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh; and Smith Medal for exceptional achievement in the arts, Smith College, Massachusetts.

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