Sculpture Feed

The Keith Haring Altarpiece

Add this to the list of Hidden Things in New York. There is a beautiful altarpiece in the Church of St John the Divine in New York City by Keith Haring. It is a triptych in the manner of Eastern Orthodox Christianity incised in clay and then cast in silver alloy. I can't think of any other religious piece by this artist but there is another cast of this specific piece located in St Eustache in Paris. The work was completed in 1990 a few weeks before Haring died of AIDS.

Keith haring altarpiece

Love These Hats!

Hat donut-1000x563According to Israel21c, Maor Zabar makes some crazy hats. They are definitely artworks unto themselves.

Growing up in Haifa, Maor Zabar was the kind of kid who painted on the furniture and drew on the walls.

“I used to drive my parents nuts,” admits the 42-year-old award-winning costume and hat designer.

Fortunately, his parents indulged their little boy’s artistic exploits. They sent him to afterschool art lessons and the WIZO Haifa Academy of Design for high school. He spent a year living with an uncle in New York, learning makeup artistry before finding his true calling.

Zabar’s famed creations include the attention-grabbing getup that Netta Barzilai wore for her winning performance in the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. In 2014, Zabar started his hat business.

He doesn’t consider himself a milliner. He simply loves hats and wanted to create them freely outside the confines of his theatrical costume commissions.

“I don’t treat my hats as fashion items. I refer to them as art pieces,” he says.

It wasn’t long before images of his hats – featuring food, carnivorous plants, sea creatures, pride, and bride themes – from his online Etsy store began making a buzz in the blogosphere. “I get inspired by things I come across, even pictures in a book or a vacation I took,” explains Zabar.

You can spot Zabar’s hats on stylish heads at launch events, red-carpet events and British horseraces.

“If you’re daring enough and want to make a fashion statement, a hat is the most standout item to do that with,” says Zabar.

Street Art of Shrine? Maybe Both

Subway-shrine-nyc-untapped-new-york1Nicole Saraniero writes for UnTapped New York that there is a makeshift shrine to Mercury spotted at a Brooklyn NY subway station.

When you are running late and waiting for the subway, you may find yourself praying for it to arrive quickly. Well, it looks like one subway rider has taken their plea for timely service to the next level by creating a cardboard subway shrine. This makeshift ode to the god Mercury was spotted by straphanger Russel Jacobs in the Utica Avenue A/C stop in Brooklyn.

The subway is a the perfect place to find guerrilla art and fun pop-ups like this. The shrine features a sketch of the Roman god Mercury with winged feet, a winged hat and winged staff. Mercury is known as the god of luck, commerce, communication, among other things. The most appropriate for this application, Mercury is the patron of travelers. The altar of the shrine is strewn with an offering of yellow roses, red electric candles, a trio of dice, a miniature bridge and a Metrocard. Perhaps if you leave an offering, Mercury will smile upon you and your train will arrive on-time.


On the Hunt for Japan’s Elaborate, Colorful Manhole Covers

Can we create beautifully designed manhole covers? It's already bring done as described in a fascinating article by of AtlasObscura

The delicate art of coloring a manhole cover in Otawara, Japan. In Japan’s glittering cities, all hustle and light, they can be easy to miss. With all that sensory assault, who thinks to look down and take notice of something as mundane as a manhole cover? But these are no ordinary bits of civic infrastructure. In Japan, many manhole covers are works of urban art—elaborate, curious, distinctive, even colorful. They have become a tourist destination unto themselves, and attract a legion of dedicated manhole enthusiasts who travel the country to visit some of the thousands of unique designs.

Japan’s decorated manhole covers—broadly encompassing storm drain, domestic water supply, electrical and other utility access covers—initially took shape as a public relations campaign for sewers. Beginning in the 1950s, the cast plates featured simple geometric patterns, such as the “Tokyo” and “Nagoya” designs. Japanese civil servant Yasutake Kameda conceived of the intricate, artistic versions in 1985, to help warm a skeptical rural population to the idea of the costly but necessary modernization of the country’s sewer system. From these humble, practical beginnings, manhole covers have become a cultural phenomenon.

That's 80 pounds of Hello Kitty in Tama City.
That’s 80 pounds of Hello Kitty in Tama City. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Typically, “local manholes” or “design manholes” feature elements special to a particular location: a town emblem, landmark, event, or official bird or flower. For instance, Takasaki, 60 miles northwest of Tokyo in mountainous Gunma Prefecture, has manhole covers that commemorate the city’s popular summer fireworks festival. Local mascots (known as yurukyara, such as Fukaya City’s adorable rabbit-deer Fukkachan) and cartoon characters also appear. In Tokyo’s Tama ward, home of the Sanrio Puroland amusement park, one can find covers featuring the ever-popular Hello Kitty. Local sports franchises are also represented near the teams’ home arenas and stadiums—such as the well-known colorful depiction of the logo of the Hiroshima Carp baseball team.

While there is some logic to the placement of the covers, particularly those graced with color—usually near a landmark, theme park, or stadium—others appear to have been placed without rhyme or reason. Indeed, it is not unusual to walk down an otherwise unremarkable side street and spot a special one underfoot.

Popular baseball team Hiroshima Carp graces local manhole covers.
Popular baseball team Hiroshima Carp graces local manhole covers. VKaeru/Wikimedia/cropped from original/CC-BY-SA-3.0

The ornate manhole covers are initially carved from aluminum, which is used to make sand molds for casting. The majority of the designs are selected by local municipalities, in conjunction with manufacturers. In most cases, the design is just imprinted in the cover, but in some cases the covers get another touch—colored resins flooded into voids like enamel on jewelry.

Today an estimated 95 percent of Japan’s 1,718 municipalities, across all 47 prefectures, now host their own unique covers. In Osaka, approximately 10 percent of the city’s 180,000 manhole covers feature ornate designs, of which roughly 1,900 get the color treatment. Typically, a designed manhole cover, which weighs more than 80 pounds, excluding the frame, costs approximately $585—a five percent premium over the cost of a plain cover. The color, however, is applied carefully by hand, and nearly doubles the price of a manhole to more than $900.

Such is the popularity of these little urban treasures that they have a devout, organized following. There is the industry-led Japan Ground Manhole Association, and the fan-based Japanese Society of Manhole Covers, whose website features thousands of photographs submitted by users across Japan, who have snapped everything from large sewer covers to tiny local utility access panels.

There are some 12,000 different manhole cover designs in Japan, including this one in Kawaguchi.
There are some 12,000 different manhole cover designs in Japan, including this one in Kawaguchi. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Manholers,” as they’re known, may travel to distant areas of the country just to photograph covers or collect pencil rubbings known as takuhon. Trading cards featuring manhole designs are also popular collectors’ items, and can command steep prices in online auctions.

One prominent fan is Kei Takebuchi, a popular Tokyo-based singer-songwriter. Takebuchi traces her fascination with them to the covers of Nagoya, which feature a charming cartoon water strider insect, while she was on tour in 2015. Since then, she has regularly tweeted photos of manhole covers to her nearly 200,000 followers on social media. “Every manhole cover design has [a meaning] … it tells me that we can create art with almost anything,” she says, in an interview for this story.

Like many places, Japan is full of people with unusual hobbies or obsessions, but love for the country’s manhole covers has gone mainstream: a “manhole festival” was held near a major train station in Tokyo last month, featuring trading cards, baked goods, and replica covers from around the country. Retailer Tokyu Hands ran an extended campaign at its central Shinjuku location, with a range of manhole cover–related goods for sale.

Singer Kei Takebuchi spent hours in Kawagoe City to capture this photograph of a manhole cover depicting a historic bell tower.
Singer Kei Takebuchi spent hours in Kawagoe City to capture this photograph of a manhole cover depicting a historic bell tower. Kei Takebuchi

The affinity for manhole covers also seems to tap in to Japan’s fondness for hobbies that involve lots of domestic travel. Stamp rallies—featuring rubber stamps at train stations and other landmarks—encourage hobbyists to travel to overlooked or lesser-visited locales to add one more stamp to their collections. “Rail-fans” similarly scour the country to document or experience a rare train carriage, an unusual station melody, or other rail-related minutia.

It is the same for manholers, with the occasionally far-flung or seemingly random placement of coveted covers—and directions of varying accuracy—adding to the sense of a scavenger hunt. Indeed, Takebuchi recounts once spending three hours on a bitterly cold day in Kawagoe City in Saitama Prefecture to snap a photo of a particular manhole cover, beautifully designed with an images of Toki no Kane, a historic bell tower. Similar stories are common currency in manholing circles.

Easy to overlook, but curious and rewarding, Japan’s unique manhole covers are a charming reminder that the mundane can be exciting, and that you should never forget to look down.

Not every manhole cover gets a colorful design, like this one in Matsumoto, so sometimes enthusiasts must search for them.
Not every manhole cover gets a colorful design, like this one in Matsumoto, so sometimes enthusiasts must search for them. HAL-Guandu/Wikimedia/cropped from original/CC-BY-SA-4.0
A manhole cover in Nagoya depicts a water strider.
A manhole cover in Nagoya depicts a water strider. bryan…/Wikimedia/CC-BY-SA-2.0
A manhole cover in Tokyo depicting "fireboys."
A manhole cover in Tokyo depicting “fireboys.” Vcarceler/Wikimedia/cropped from original/CC-BY-SA-3.0
A fish manhole in Hiroshima.
A fish manhole in Hiroshima. VKaeru/Wikimedia/cropped from original/CC-BY-SA-3.0
A manhole depicting Osaka Castle.
A manhole depicting Osaka Castle. dunhilaryu/Flickr/cropped from original/CC BY 2.0

The Artist Making Tapestries Out of Aquatic Trash

Jo Atherton’s colorful works turn our plastic crisis into a meditation on memory and time.

Jo Atherton’s tapestries can’t be ignored. They’re filled with texture, movement, and color. When placed on the blank walls of galleries, they’re like fishing lures for the eye: visitors will spot them from across the room and hone on in.

“Often, people are drawn to them,” says Atherton. “They don’t quite know what they’re looking at … It’s only when they get up close that they have that shock moment of, ‘Oh my God, it’s rubbish!’”

This is not a judgement. Atherton, a freelance artist based in Bedfordshire, England, literally makes art from garbage. Some of it is old garbage—pieces of pottery and glass from ancient Rome, lent gravitas by the passage of time. Some of it is slightly more recent, like the nests of rope, fishing net, and colorful plastic doo-dads that make up those sneaky tapestries, which she calls “Flotsam Weaving.” She finds all of her materials herself, in the depths of the Thames and along the low-tide lines on Cornwall’s beaches.

One of Jo Atherton's flotsam tapestries.
One of Jo Atherton’s flotsam tapestries. Courtesy Jo Atherton

Atherton prefers to beachcomb in Cornwall, on the U.K.’s southwest coast. “A lot of material washes up in the winter because of the Gulf Stream,” she says, and she and other seekers pick up stuff from all corners of the Atlantic: the West Indies; the Eastern seaboard; Nova Scotia. Atherton describes the tideline as “a story,” and scavenging along it as “an act of reading.”

A detail from a flotsam weaving, featuring a bubble wand and a rooster-shaped bike reflector that once came free in boxes of Kellogg's Cereal.
A detail from a flotsam weaving, featuring a bubble wand and a rooster-shaped bike reflector that once came free in boxes of Kellogg’s Cereal. Courtesy Jo Atherton

Often, she must imagine the characters that populate the resulting tales: What kid played with this plastic soldier? Who disobeyed their parents and released this now-popped balloon? But sometimes, the real ones make themselves known—as when she found a fisherman’s tag that had floated to Cornwall after detaching from a lobster buoy in Maine. “I thought, ‘I’ll type his name into Facebook and see if I can find him,’” she says. “And sure enough, I could.” Later, they talked on the phone, and realized they share a birth year, 1979.

Experiences like this inspired her Flotsam Weaving series, which she says is about “the threads of stories … [and] the similarity between text and textile.” More recently, she has been exploring other media, including printing and cyanotype. For these works, she arranges tiny bits of plastic in repeating, often circular patterns. Silhouetted and abstracted by ink or photochemicals, they look like plankton viewed through a microscope. “Prehistoric plankton settled onto the ocean floor and slowly turned into oil,” she says. “That’s now what we’re making our plastic from … the prints are a way of getting people thinking about these deep-time connections.”


Wara Art

Recycling into art as reported by Atlas Obscura:

Giant animal sculptures are created with the rice straw leftover from the fall harvest each year. 

The rural, coastal Niigata prefecture in Northern Japan is known for its wealth of rice paddies, which produce a rich harvest each fall. After the rice is harvested and the grain extracted, a huge amount of rice straw is leftover, called wara.

Instead of going to waste, the excess wara is reused in many ways: for roofs, fertilizer, livestock feed, and, historically, to make various goods before it was replaced by more modern materials. In the region’s capital city, Niigata, it’s put to an even more creative use, transformed into giant, fantastic animal sculptures.

For the last decade, students from Musashino Art University in Tokyo have headed north to Niigata each fall to create wonderful sculptures with the leftover rice straw. These golden artworks, made by piecing patches of braided straw over a wooden frame, can be seen on display at the annual Wara Art Festival in Uwasekigata Park. In 2017, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the festival, the students were challenged to build the creatures twice as large as usual, and supersized gorillas, rhinos, and dinosaurs filled the open field.

Know Before You Go

The Wara Art Festival is held each year starting in late August and the sculptures remain up until the end of October.

Yarn-Bombing at the Guggenheim Museum - A Toilet with Gold Crochet

Hyperallergic reports that the guerrilla intervention was in place for two hours during the museum’s pay-what-you-wish period on a Saturday.

A guerrilla intervention in the Guggenheim Museum's fourth floor bathroom (photo provided to Hyperallergic by anonymous source)

On Saturday, the otherwise unremarkable fourth-floor bathroom in the Guggenheim Museum saw an artistic intervention whereby the currently installed, stock white toilet was completely enveloped in coarse, glimmering gold yarn. The bathroom in question was previously and rather infamously activated by Maurizio Cattelan’s gold toilet (“America,” 2016). While that work stayed in place for a full year, Saturday’s unsanctioned intervention remained in place for roughly two hours.

“We can confirm an intervention of a crocheted piece that covered a toilet on the museum’s Ramp 4,” a spokesperson for the Guggenheim told Hyperallergic. “The intervention came to the attention of security personnel near the end of our Pay-What-You-Wish hours on Saturday evening and was carefully removed and sent to the registrar’s office. There was no damage and nothing was vandalized. The Guggenheim does not encourage unauthorized interventions; however, we are heartened that a visitor was so inspired by the Cattelan installation that they were moved to create one of their own.”

To anyone even remotely familiar with the inner workings of New York’s contemporary art scene, this particular guerrilla art intervention, in every respect, screams of the Polish fiber and knitwear artist, Olek. When asked over the phone about the Guggenheim intervention, Olek — an irreverent cross between a Guerrilla Girl and a Pussy Riot member — would neither confirm nor deny authorship.

Olek has made a name for herself by covering famous statues and monuments with her distinctive, multi-colored “yarn-bombing.” In 2010, long before the arrival of “Fearless Girl,” Wall Street’s “Charging Bull” statue — perhaps one of the more overt symbols of wealth, capitalism, industry, and generally masculine, patriarchal notions of American strength and success — was wrapped snuggly and surprisingly in Olek’s pink and purple camouflage pattern. A year later, she wrapped the Astor Place cube in a similar dressing. In 2012 she traveled to Barcelona to give Fernando Botero’s giant sculpture of a cat a similar treatment. Later that summer, in Washington, DC, Olek covered the National Academy of Science’s Albert Einstein Memorial in pink and purple crocheted fabric. Her use of these colors — those often attributed to a particular sex and catering to established female gender norms — one would assume, is no accident.

Though the always playfully ferocious Olek doesn’t lead with feminist talking points, it’s difficult not to contextualize her works as playful but nevertheless punk rock acts of feminist protest. Each project is a brazen, uninvited takeover of otherwise masculine-charged and over-sized art objects.

Maurizio Cattelan, “America” (2016), gold (photo by Carey Dunne/Hyperallergic)
Maurizio Cattelan, “America” (2016), gold (photo by Carey Dunne/Hyperallergic)

In the case of the Guggenheim intervention, the artist (whomever he or she may be) is adding another dimension to Cattelan’s “America,” which resurfaced in the news recently when the Guggenheim’s deputy director Nancy Spector offered to lend the gold toilet to the Trumps. Here, the unnamed yarn-bomber is doubling down on Cattelan’s joke and Spector’s subsequent, suave, punk rock act of political rebellion via polite curatorial sassiness. The artist, if she is in fact female, may also be making a guerrilla statement about the lack of representation of women in institutional spaces.

As the sculptor Antony Gormley said of Olek’s work in 2012, when she covered his seaside sculptures in the UK with her yarn costumes: “I feel that barnacles provide the best cover-up, but this is a very impressive substitute!” Though the US political machine currently seems to be riddled with barnacle types, perhaps it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate potentially vibrant alternatives — however fleeting they may be.


Saving the Art and Home of Outsider Artist Mary Nohl

This article by Allison Meier for HyperAllergic highlights the amazing work of outsider artist Mary Nohl. Unappreciated in her time but thankfully appreciated now.


FOX POINT, Wisconsin — Mary Nohl knew what some of the neighbors thought of her house. It was unlike any home in the Milwaukee suburb, with colossal concrete heads looming between the slender trees, driftwood sculptures adorning the colorful siding, and wooden cut-outs of boats and fish decorating the garage. For 50 years, Nohl constantly tinkered with the art, adding lattices of concrete faces and glass that caught the light, wind chimes in the trees, and whimsical mosaic creatures. She called herself simply “a woman who likes tools.” However, to many suspicious of this single woman toiling away at her eclectic cottage on the Lake Michigan shore, she was the “Witch of Fox Point.” So, on her front steps, she embedded in pebbles the greeting: “BOO.”

“She lived the myth making,” artist Alex Gartelmann, who is now living in and restoring Nohl’s house, said as we stepped inside. “And she was above it all.” While the interior of the house in Fox Point, Wisconsin, is now mostly empty as Mary Nohl’s Art Environment has been undergoing a restoration project since 2015, there are traces of the dense art that filled it from floor to ceiling. Stained glass covers the windows (“Almost all doors and windows once had stained glass,” Gartlemann explained), skeletons made from chicken bones hover on the kitchen cabinets, and along the fireplace in the living room, a snake chases an apple.

Mary Nohl's Art Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin
Mary Nohl’s Art Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

On the floor of the living room, wooden fish in various sizes and conditions were arranged from large to small. Gartlemann is examining which can be restored and returned to the house, and which will need to be recreated. Nohl nailed the originals on the walls; the reinstallation will use a hanging system so pieces can be removed without damage. The process is part of an ongoing effort to return the home to what it looked like around 1998, when Nohl was still active and the art was at its peak. The exterior was recently repainted, drainage in the lawn improved, and windows have been replaced. Light now streams into the living room through a new picture window, with the deep blue of Lake Michigan visible through the overgrown trees. Once, the room had a direct view to the water. Years of trespassing and vandalism led Nohl to put up a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, and the plants were allowed to grow.

Nohl’s living room is currently on view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which manages the art environment and is overseeing its restoration (Gartlemann is the JMKAC exhibitions project coordinator). The site was left by Nohl to the Kohler Foundation, and in 2012 was gifted to JMKAC. On one wall in the JMKAC exhibition, across from the buoyant assemblage of midcentury furniture, mobiles made from painted eggs, and a hanging horse rider formed from wire, is a panorama of Lake Michigan.

Installation view of Mary Nohl's living room in <em>Greetings and Salutations and Boo</em> at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Installation view of Mary Nohl’s living room in Greetings and Salutations and Boo at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Called “Frozen Blue” (2017), the collage photograph is by Cecelia Condit, one of many artists who have received grants through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Nohl Fund. When Mary Nohl passed away in December of 2001 at the age of 87, she left $11.3 million dollars — her whole estate — for the support of local arts. Condit’s photograph returns that sprawling lake view to her living room, and it also reflects how Nohl was far from an “outsider” artist, and that she cared deeply about the place where she was born and died. From the concrete sculptures made from beach sand, to the nautical themes of the wood cut-outs, the subjects were as site-specific as the work itself.

The living room is the centerpiece of Greetings and Salutations and Boo: Mary Nohl + Catherine Morris, an exhibition that’s part of the JMKAC’s 2017 The Road Less Traveled celebrating the museum’s 50th anniversary. Each of the 15 rotating shows focuses on a different art environment, with a contemporary creator, scholar, or thinker engaging with the work in a new way. JMKAC curator Karen Patterson approached Catherine Morris, curator for the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, to organize selections of Nohl’s art. Nohl studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and was multidisciplinary in her practice, working on a small-scale with silver and stone jewelry, up to a towering “Stickman” sculpture. She had a modernist experimentation in her use of industrial materials like metal and cement, and she delved into ceramics, paintings, and lithographs. She even wrote a graphic novel called “Danny the Diver,” inspired by her brother Max who was a salvage diver.

Installation view of Mary Nohl's living room in <em>Greetings and Salutations and Boo</em> at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Installation view of Mary Nohl’s living room in Greetings and Salutations and Boo at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (photo by the author for Hyperallergic) tk
Mary Nohl Lake Cottage Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin (living room detail) (2003) (photo by Jason Engelhardt, courtesy John Michael Kohler Arts Center)
Mary Nohl Lake Cottage Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin (living room detail) (2003) (photo by Jason Engelhardt, courtesy John Michael Kohler Arts Center)

“In the history of art in the 20th century, what little success or critical attention women artists received was often inexplicably constructed around personal narratives,” Morris states in an exhibition text. “Biography seemed to be the primary means critics, curators, or dealers had for talking about the work of women artists; these same reductive methodological tools just didn’t get applied to male artists of the same period.” Morris notes how, for example, Frida Kahlo’s medical trauma is frequently highlighted in discussing her work; Jackson Pollock’s alcoholism is not. “These undermining narratives sometimes calcify into fables and myths of witchcraft,” Morris adds. “And, as the history of ‘witchiness’ teaches us, rather than confirming any actual threat of danger, the designation is an invitation to persecution and ostracism.”

As Patterson told me as we walked through the exhibition, “Mary needed a new interpretation, and certainly someone from a feminist lens.” She noted the feminist argument that “the personal is political,” and that although Nohl mainly worked from home (aside from a brief stint managing a commercial pottery studio), this does not mean her art was not a statement of independence and vision. Nohl was serious about her work, whether it was making an Easter Island-esque head topped with a mosaic crown, or a richly colored painting of abstracted forms. Her concrete creations of fish sitting on benches and people with sun-shaped heads turned to the sky appear joyously spontaneous. Descend into the basement of the house, and it’s evident how much her art developed before she started to work outside. Two murals survive — her earliest work in the house — and they are strikingly different from the art environment. Two people dance naked alongside one entryway, their bodies defined unlike the amorphous figures of the later cut-outs; flanking an adjacent portal are an eerie cloaked skeleton and a woman-like being with razor-sharp teeth.

Mary Nohl's Art Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin
The basement murals in Mary Nohl’s house (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Mary Nohl's Art Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin
The basement murals in Mary Nohl’s house (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

In 2014, as Debra Brehmer reported for Hyperallergic, there was a plan to relocate Nohl’s home to Sheboygan County, where JMKAC is based. By 2015, that idea was reversed due to the logistical challenges and risk to the art. Instead, the aim is to restore and preserve the environment in situ, including stabilizing the outdoor sculptures, and getting local zoning changes for an artist residency. However, concerns about traffic on the quiet street and disruptive crowds have made the Fox Point community bristle in the past at any regular public access. So JMKAC has made efforts to invite visitors into Nohl’s world through their exhibitions. In 2016, Of Heart and Home: Mary Nohl’s Art Environment featured a wall of her studio with over 100 tools. JMKAC’s Art Preserve,  planned to open in 2020 in Sheboygan, will include her work in a permanent collections facility that will double as a place to study art environments and their preservation. The current Greetings and Salutations and Boo includes a diverse cross-section of her art, with paintings, sculptures, and the white fence of faces in profile that bordered her property. That is, before the chain-link fence.

In one case at JMKAC is a stack of diaries from five years of Nohl’s life, in which she meticulously recorded her diet, exercise, and art making. One entry reads: “Removed a pane of glass on the north side of the house, and made a round rifle hole in a wood panel, and I use blanks and it sounds just as loud as the war in Vietnam on TV.” Nohl may have laughed off being the “witch” of the community, but there was a real fear for her safety in this nonconformity. Slowly JMKAC is finding a balance between saving her creations and harmonizing with the affluent Milwaukee suburb, where Nohl’s house stands out on Fox Point’s Beach Drive as much as ever among the neat lawns and big homes.

“People will hopefully both be supportive and question the ideas of what they though it was,” Patterson said. Gartlemann added that it’s “a slow process of winning hearts and minds.” He said that anytime he’s outside painting or working on conservation, there are always curious passersby. Overwhelmingly, it’s not people asking about the witch legends, like if the statues are trespassers turned to stone. They’re wondering when they can come inside.

Mary Nohl's Art Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin
“BOO” on Mary Nohl’s front steps (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Mary Nohl Lake Cottage Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin (living room detail) (1997), with Nohl and others in her cottage living room (courtesy John Michael Kohler Arts Center)
Mary Nohl Lake Cottage Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin (living room detail) (1997), with Nohl and others in her cottage living room (courtesy John Michael Kohler Arts Center)
Mary Nohl's Art Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin
Fireplace in Mary Nohl’s living room (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)


ForditeDo you think this looks like agate or some other semi-precious stone? Think again. It is car paint! Here is a fascinating article by

Agate gemstones are known for their amorphous, fluid patterns and colors created by the slow accumulation of sedimentary layers. But in the case of the obscure “gems” known as “motor agate” or “fordite,” instead of sediment and minerals, the layers are made of car paint.

Pieces of fordite certainly look as though they could have been fashioned deep within some colorful part of the Earth. Largely, though, fordite was created well above ground in the auto plants of Detroit, Michigan.

Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, American automobiles began being painted via spray techniques that produced large nuggets of excess paint, built up in layer after layer of color. When the cars’ coating would be heated to harden, these overspray deposits would harden right along with them, bringing them to an almost stone-like hardness. A 2013 article about fordite in The New York Times refers to this excess as “enamel slag.”

Once these globs were sufficiently large enough to get in the way of the factory line, they would be broken off the bars and skids they were hanging from, and generally tossed away as waste. “Most of the good stuff is already buried in landfills,” says Cindy Dempsey, an independent jewelry creator and owner of Urban Relic Design, who has been working with motor agate for over 20 years.

Seven Magic Mountains

Head to Las Vega to not only see my artwork hanging at the MGM hotel but also to see the Seven Magic Mountains ---

Seven magic mountainsMost people visit Las Vegas for casinos and crazy night clubs, but drive 10 miles beyond the Sin City walls and you’ll come face to face with one of Nevada’s most unique and unknown sights, the Seven Magic Mountains.

Built as a public art exhibit by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, the 30-foot fluorescent “totems” stand like brightly colored beacons lighting up the desert sky. Rondinone used locally sourced boulders, and chose this location because it’s “physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial.”

Visitors can walk right up to the mountains, and the site is just a quick 10 miles from Las Vegas. The Seven Magic Mountains are a temporary exhibit, and will be on display until 2018.