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Friday, March 21, 2008

Day Four, Part IV: Garden of Earthly Delights

My Dad gets all the credit for this. After I'd planned Hutchinson as a destination and searched (so I thought) online for folk art stops more or less on the way to and from, my Dad mentioned we'd be in line to visit the Garden of Eden.

I've seen the place, probably more than once, on Rare Visions & Roadside Revelations, one of the few TV shows I ever agreed with my ex wife on.

And my ex is related, I think, to the original Weirdo of Lucas, Kansas. Same pronunciation, but different spelling. The guy was at least as stubborn as his namesakes in my experience.

He had a well, but the spring turned out to be the city water main. He started this house when he was already 'retired,' at the age of 64, and built the mausoleum he's housed in for himself and his first wife. They wouldn't let him bury her in the mausoleum, so he dug her bones up from the cemetery and encased them in cement in the mausoleum, basically telling the Lucas City Council to go jump in a lake.

Can you imagine actually disinterring your own wife and caring her decomposing carcass home? What an image. Guy knew what he wanted, though.

A man after my own heart, he remarried, his second wife being twenty to his eighty-one. He had two honyocks with wife #2 before shuffling off this mortal coil and leaving future generations to wonder, without this freak, wither Lucas?

Thing is, Lucas is tiny. There's a cafe on the edge of town, and a few businesses in the downtown, but we're talking a town so small it doesn't have its own gas station. Which is to say, one eccentric like Sam Dinsmoor would be way over quota. I mean, not only is he in the mausoleum, he's lying in state, and while they ask you not take pictures, you do indeed get to see what's left of him (he died in 1932). It's a truly creepy thing to behold.

But there's more: At the same time he was mixing up concrete to make these bizarre sculptures (Adam and Eve, with Adam wearing a Masonic apron, for instance), there was another cat on the edge of town making sculptures you can still see from the road.

In fact, coming in to town, there's more folk art, including a gorgeous mural on a satellite dish, an apple that appears made out of a wrecking ball, and a weathervane made by the aforementioned contemporary of Dinsmoor.

There's also signs pointing you to the Grassroots Art Center, which we figured we'd check out. On the way there, we found the Fork Art and a bunch more sculpture on display in the town's main drag.

At the Grassroots Art Center, they've done a great job of collecting work from folk artists from all over the region. The common denominators of all these artists are they've done amazing things and that they've 'never had one lesson.'

A couple of artists, we were told, technically could be considered 'trained,' but 99% of what you see here is made by autodidacts using whatever material they had at hand.

The crazy sculptor out in Mullinville I'd wanted to check out (but it would have been too far West for this trip), his stuff is on display there, too. And several things I remember seeing on Rare Visions.

Then, just when I thought we'd run out of Grassroots Art Center, the lady giving the tour said to follow her, and hopped in her car.

We went a couple blocks over to the Deeble House. This was owned by a woman who sculpted 'vacation postcards' in her backyard to describe her various vacations. I'm sure by the time she was doing this, in the 1950s, the people in Lucas figured there was something in the water.

Inside the house, the walls have been covered with foil and display the works of Mri-Pilar. Her specialty is what she calls 'REBARB,' based on discarded and dismembered Barbie dolls. Em was a little concerned that someone would dismember Barbies, but we were told they are not dismembered by Mri, rather people bring junk to her, leave sacks of it on her porch. Let's see what she does with this stuff....

Some of the stuff is for sale, and Em was wishing she had $35, then wishing she had $75, then wishing...

I told her, well, you have Barbies that have been in the wars. Why not make your own sculptures? Isn't that the whole idea of folk art, anyway?

That's the great thing about it. I've never mixed a batch of concrete in my life, but crazy guys like Dinsmoor and Ed Root make me want to. Not to do the exact thing they've done, but to try and find my own concrete muse. Or, when it was mentioned that Mri-Pilar uses a hot glue gun extensively in her REBARBs, I got to thinking about all the cool things you could do with some epoxy and fiberglass cloth, stuff I've been learning to use for my rockets.

For that matter, the folk artist in me finds expression, I suppose, in the fact that I can't fly a rocket without naming it; and I'm far more interested in getting a cool looking paint job than the performance of the rocket as a general rule. Guys in the club will fly rockets they haven't even painted, and I can't imagine doing such a thing. Even on my proposed supersonic project, I'm not going to forgo a paint job to shave weight, though I guess an engineering focused rocketeer would do exactly that.

By the time we were done at the Deeble House, Mo was getting too cranky for us to try the Flying Pig, the studio up the road from the Grassroots Art Center.

I'm honestly having trouble organizing the photos in a logical way for this post. I'm aware there's too many pictures here. Trust me on this, I culled many more than I posted. Low lighting and the limitations of a pocket camera made a lot of these subjects very difficult to shoot. This is one of those situations where I truly do wish for a nice SLR.

As hard as it is to believe, this tiny town you could walk across in under an hour has so much great folk art, you really need an entire day, minimum to explore it. We'll be going back, hopefully when the weather is more congenial.


Folk Art said...

Amazing art works. The wide range of arts from fork arts to the ones made of metals, I liked all of them. It sure is a garden of delights. These art works are a treat to the eyes. Thanks for posting the lovely images.

Bharath Reddy said...

Simply Superb..

I like the way you presented the items..simply words to express !!!