Good Road to Follow examines the work of two artists, separated by decades and experiences, whose work contributes to the lore surrounding American hobos and their lives on the road. Highlighting the important role that artists can play in the documentation and recognition of marginalized groups of people, this exhibition speaks to the power of humankind’s quest for community.
From childhood until his death, Adolph Vandertie (1911–2007) was fascinated by the stories, lifestyle, and material objects of the hobos and tramps passing through his hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Starting in the mid-1950s, Vandertie began teaching himself the hobo and tramp art of notch and chip carving, eventually mastering the ball-in-the-cage. He went on to create thousands of such carvings, trading his creations for those of others. He eventually co-wrote the book Hobo and Tramp Art Carving: An Authentic American Folk Tradition to share his collection and teach others the skills of the craft. Upon his death, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center acquired nearly thirteen hundred of Vandertie’s carvings and some of his archival materials related to hobos and their work.
David Eberhardt, a documentary filmmaker and photographer, began riding freight trains in 1990. He immersed himself in the rail-riding subculture, hopping trains across every state west of the Mississippi. The relationships he developed became the foundation for his 2003 documentary film, Long Gone, and his upcoming book of photography, You Can't Catch a Ghost. Good Road to Follow features a selection of these photographs.
Good Road to Follow is part of the exhibition series On Being Here (and There)
In a time of social distancing and isolation, On Being Here (and There) highlights the ways artists, cultural organizations, and communities initiate connections, encourage belonging, and provide social sustenance. The works presented in this series of exhibitions reveal how artistic practices can enhance and activate our communities.
The themes of care, connectivity, and relationship building are at the center of On Being Here (and There). These are expressed through: participatory practices that take art from the studio to the public sphere, acts of generosity and exchange, and projects that shed light on timely social issues or give voice and visibility to the marginalized.
The series is anchored by a group exhibition titled Between You and Me, which brings together contemporary artists whose practices are intentional acts of care for their neighbors and broader communities.
Complementing Between You and Me are two exhibitions that engage the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s history of collaboration, collecting, and preservation. Tokens of Appreciation is a story about the unique relationships that develop between Kohler Co. factory associates and artists participating in the Arts/Industry residency program. Good Road to Follow, which draws from the Arts Center’s collection, evokes Adolph Vandertie’s in-house museum of hobo and tramp art and explores the role of grass-roots archiving in preserving community culture. Photographs by David Eberhardt, who rode the rails throughout the United States, surround the Vandertie installation and poignantly portray the lives of his fellow travelers.
These exhibitions are supplemented by The Projector Room, a gallery newly dedicated to the showing of film and video artworks that expand on themes found in the galleries. Screenings will include Bill Daniel’s Who Is Bozo Texino?, Ailbhe Ní Bhriain’s Inscriptions of an Immense Theater, and Kevin Schmidt’s EDM House.
The exhibitions, events, and activities that comprise On Being Here (and There) demonstrate that what artists and arts organizations make happen is just as important as the objects they create and exhibit.
This exhibition is supported by the Kohler Trust for Arts and Education, the Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust, Kohler Foundation, Inc., Herzfeld Foundation, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.