Unseen Forces

The Healing Machine: Emery Blagdon

December 17, 2017 — July 1, 2018

This fresh presentation of Emery Blagdon’s (1907–1986) “Healing Machine” includes two sections of the artist’s shed environment, completing the Arts Center’s re-creation of the original in-situ floor plan. The gallery also features never before exhibited paintings.

Learning that his mother was terminally ill, Blagdon returned home to rural Nebraska in the mid-1930s and began exploring two of his favorite subjects that would lead to the construction of The Healing Machine: the mysteries of electricity and its role in healing. Blagdon believed he was unusually sensitive to electrical currents, and although he seldom spoke of his intentions, he eagerly investigated the curative potential of this unseen force.

Blagdon turned to the repetition of assembling a series of sculptures he called “pretties,” made of baling wire, aluminum foil, hand-painted lightbulbs, salts, and other organic matter, believing they possessed a remedial quality that might ease human pain and suffering. He added brightly colored paintings with concentric circles and angular lines to serve as generators or reflectors of natural forces, an essential part of The Healing Machine’s overall structure. Blagdon believed the static charges and the emanating aura of these entities exuded curing properties for those experiencing intense physical and emotional suffering.

Blagdon’s artist-built environment makes visible the power of belief and the complexity of human emotion.


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 Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., and Sargento Foods Inc. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year.