The Road Less Traveled Exhibition



Jan. 29, 2017 - Jan. 5, 2019

In 1975, Loy Bowlin reinvented his life and transformed into the “Original Rhinestone Cowboy.” That adopted persona inspired him to convert his home into a dazzling art environment. Folklorist Jennifer Joy Jameson adds original research and oral histories from those who knew Bowlin to this presentation of the “Beautiful Holy Jewel Home.”

Explore the exhibition

Ends Jan. 2019

About this exhibition

A favorite with visitors when it was last exhibited in 2007, the newly preserved “Beautiful Holy Jewel Home” will again stand inside an Arts Center gallery. The accounts of those who remember the site’s creator bring added depth to this presentation of Loy Bowlin’s visually striking art environment.

Bowlin (1909–1995) grew up on a hardscrabble stock ranch in Mississippi. His childhood was defined by the family’s struggle to make ends meet. Bowlin married in 1933 and made a meager living farming and scrapping during the Depression. After a failed business venture in the 1950s, he divorced. Over the next two decades, Bowlin suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety.

It was Glen Campbell’s 1975 hit record “Rhinestone Cowboy,” that brought joy and purpose to his life. Bowlin adopted the rhinestone cowboy persona. He added rhinestones to his clothes, decorated his 1967 Cadillac, and created a home environment to serve as the backdrop for his showmanship.

“The Beautiful Holy Jewel Home” (c.1975–1990), was a small, extravagantly embellished home in McComb, Mississippi. He adorned much of the exterior and nearly every inch of the interior. The walls were covered with patterns of cutout paper, paint, glitter, and collaged photographs and magazine illustrations.

After Bowlin’s death in 1995 when The Beautiful Holy Jewel Home was slated to be razed, a Houston artist and collector purchased the home with the stipulation that it be removed from the property. The buyer then documented and dismantled the house. In 1998, Kohler Foundation, Inc. acquired the disassembled house and later gifted the home and many of the Bowlin’s works to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.



In her response to this art environment, folklorist Jennifer Joy Jameson focuses on Bowlin’s impact within the McComb region. A collaborative ethnohistory created from recorded oral accounts and memories of those in the area is accompanied by a photo series.

Jennifer Joy Jameson


Jennifer Joy Jameson is the folk and traditional arts director of the Mississippi Arts Commission and managing editor of Mississippi Folklife. She has a deep interest in community engagement and documentation in the American South.

Contact Jennifer Joy:

Behind the Scenes

Opening Night: The Road Less Traveled

You’re invited to Opening Night in our yearlong series dedicated to artist-built environments!

Seven multidisciplinary exhibitions exploring art environments
Musical performance by Jim White and Paul Fonfara
Followed by DJ and dancing
Complimentary appetizers
Cash bar

Members are Free (remember to bring your card for fast check-in)

$15 in advance/$25 at door

Feb. 25, 2017

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.