Starting in the 1960s in rural Nebraska, 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. Impacted by personal tragedy, Blagdon worked for nearly thirty years on this constantly changing installation called “The Healing Machine.” His intent was to channel the earth’s energies to alleviate pain and illness.
The Healing Machine could not be preserved in situ and is now in the Arts Center’s collection.
Harry Bertoia (1915–1978), a prominent Modernist designer, made hundreds of sounding sculptures from the early 1960s until his death in 1978. These works are known collectively as Sonambients. He installed several sculptures in a stone barn on his property for performances that have been described as spiritual, enlightening, and transformative.
Shannon R. Stratton collaborated with the Arts Center on AN ENCOUNTER WITH PRESENCE. For the exhibition, she draws connections between Bertoia’s Sonambient metal sculptures and Blagdon’s “pretties” made of aluminum foil and baling wire. Although operating from very different vantage points, Blagdon and Bertoia both built deeply moving environments designed to connect them with nature and its energies. She facilitated the inclusion of Harry Bertoia’s “Sonambient” sound and sculptures and an original composition imagining the sound inside Blagdon’s art environment by sound artist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe.
Shannon Stratton is the William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC. With specific interest in fiber/material studies, regionalism, art activism, and ideas surrounding amateurism and craft, Stratton responds to the materiality and atmosphere of Emery Blagdon’s “The Healing Machine.”
Scholars, artists, preservationists, educators, activists, art historians, collectors and devotees will delve into the complex subject of artist-built environments during a three-day conference at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.
Through a variety of performances, panels, and workshops, attendees will share new ideas and broaden the collective knowledge and appreciation of this unique style of art making that is the focus of a yearlong series of exhibitions at the Arts Center.
The conference, titled The Road Less Traveled, is the third Divine Disorder program of the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT). In addition to the Arts Center and NCPTT, Kohler Foundation Inc. is a hosting partner for the conference.
Sep. 27, 2017 - Sep. 29, 2017Register
This exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year.