John Michael Kohler Arts Center presents ESCAPE ROUTES ~Original exhibition series explores the desire to escape contemporary anxieties~

August 29, 2016

A multitude of weighty issues plague society today—whether it is worldly struggles with climate change, political divisiveness, and threats of terrorism, or personal dealings with debt, loss, child rearing, or technology overload. It’s enough to make anyone run for the hills.

The John Michael Kohler Arts Center addresses the desire to elude and perhaps defy the pressures of contemporary living through a new, original exhibition series that runs through Jan. 15, 2017. The series, titled ESCAPE ROUTES, is anchored by a group exhibition of the same name opening Oct. 2. Accompanying the group show are four solo exhibitions: GREGORY VAN MAANEN: A WORLD WE CANNOT SEE through Nov. 6, EMMY LINGSCHEIT: EDGE EFFECT through Nov. 20, STACEY STEERS: PHANTOM CANYONS through Jan. 1, and MIKE GOODLETT: HUMAN BEHAVIOR through Jan. 8.

The creative rebellions expressed by the artists in this series are similar in nature to routes of escape that have emerged in our culture—for example, the tiny home phenomenon, slow food movement, and going low tech or off the grid entirely.

Through photographs, paintings, sculptures, film, and drawings, the artists participating in the five exhibitions respond to modern anxieties by exploring escapist tendencies. Some examine the idea of “going off the grid,” or visualize portals or pathways of “escape.” Others opt to shift attentions inward, inventing fantastical worlds free of mundane or troublesome realities. Some delve into detailed processes, inducing a sense of focus or “flow” that allows them to abandon present space and time. Although the escape routes these artists choose to take are many, each supports the premise that escape can be a valid means of solving, or at least managing, contemporary concerns creatively.

In the main ESCAPE ROUTES exhibition, several artists examine the idea of “inscape” where escape means finding freedom from societal boundaries or limitations through creative expression. For example, Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin created fantastical architectural renderings and blueprints during the oppressive Soviet-era Russia of the 1970s and ’80s. The drawings were a revolt against an aesthetically restrictive system that they felt made it impossible to realize actual projects.

Emery Blagdon, an art-environment builder from the Arts Center’s collection, as well as fellow artist Melvin Edward Nelson fueled isolated lifestyles by making works of art that served a healing purpose. Hiroyuki Doi abandoned his career as a successful chef to dedicate his life to making art, a response to his brother’s death from a brain tumor. Doi found solace in spending innumerable hours creating highly detailed drawings of swirling circle compositions that reflect an intimate process of flow between mind, body, and paper.

At its heart, the series offers visitors an invitation to explore promising solutions to 21st-century anxieties through the transformative work of established and emerging artists.

Artists in the series include: Emery Blagdon (1907–1986), Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin (Russia), Cole Caswell (ME) Laurent Chéhère (France), Justin Cooper (NY), Russell Crotty (CA), Hiroyuki Doi (Japan), Mike Goodlett (KY), Andrea Joyce Heimer (WA), Hipkiss (France), Patrick Jacobs (NY), Robyn Kang (NY), Jed Lind (CA), Emmy Lingscheit (IL), Theo Michael (Mexico), Dan Miller (CA), Ethan Murrow (MA), Melvin Edward Nelson (1908–1992), Stas Orlovski (CA), Alexis Rockman (NY), Hiraki Sawa (England), Stacey Steers (CO) and Gregory Van Maanen (NJ).

Admission to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is by voluntary donation. The Arts Center, located at 608 New York Ave. in downtown Sheboygan, is open daily except major holidays. Call 920-458-6144 or visit for more information.

Major support for ESCAPE ROUTES is provided by the West Foundation, Sargento Foods Inc., the Herzfeld Foundation, and The Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank. Funding was also provided by the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the members of the Arts Center’s Exhibitions & Collections Giving Circle. 

About the John Michael Kohler Arts Center: Founded in 1967, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is dedicated to making innovative arts programming accessible to a broad audience that ranges from artists and academics to families and youth of all ages. Central to its mission is promoting understanding and appreciation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists through original exhibitions, commissioned works of art, performing arts programs, community arts initiatives, and publications. The Arts Center’s collections focus primarily on works by vernacular-environment builders, self-taught and folk artists, and works created in the Arts/Industry residency program.

Looking to the future, the Arts Center continues to generate new explorations in the arts that foster creative exchanges between an international community of artists and a diverse public, making real the power of the arts to transform lives and strengthen communities. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is supported by corporate and foundation donors, government grants, and its many members. The Arts Center is not an entity of Kohler Co. or its subsidiaries. More information about the Arts Center can be found at


Admission to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is by voluntary donation. Arts Center members receive a discount on performance and other event tickets, classes and camps tuition, purchases at ARTspace gift shops, and free or discounted admission to many special events. Memberships are available at the Arts Center, by visiting, and/or by calling 920-458-6144.

Arts Center Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Arts Center is open at other times for special events.