The power of storytelling—whether through words, images, or figures—united the artists featured in FOLK & FABLE. Artist and curator Faythe Levine responded to Ames and Zahn with her contemporary photographs of artist-built environments along with site-specific, hand-painted wall text. In addition, work was commissioned by two additional contemporary artists—watercolors by Stacy Rozich, and the re-creation of historical signage by Norma Jeanne Maloney.
Wisconsin artists Levi Fisher Ames (1843–1923) and Albert Zahn (1864–1953) carved animals out of wood to create wondrous worlds that were both imaginary and instructive.
Ames made hundreds of miniatures of real and mythic creatures that became the “L.F. Ames Museum of Art,” a traveling tent show. He recounted both tall and truthful tales about his “specimens” to the delight of audiences, tapping into the popularity of the circuses and sideshows that were prevalent throughout Wisconsin.
Zahn spent his days carving woodland creatures in the forest surrounding his home in Baileys Harbor. By the early 1930s, hundreds of carvings dotted the house and yard. Zahn’s birds, flora, and fauna were a vivid ode to his love of nature; the many angels and a towering family tree bespoke his dedication to traditional values. Owing to the plethora of winged forms, Zahn’s art environment was named “Birds Park.”
Faythe Levine (TN), who collaborated with the Arts Center in developing the exhibition, connected with Ames and Zahn through her own art and varied curatorial practices. To broaden the collaboration, Levine invited master sign painter Norma Jeanne Maloney (TX) and watercolorist Stacey Rozich (CA) to summon the realms of Ames and Zahn through their own visual language.
(Right) Stacey Rozich, Save Me From My Misguided Enthusiasm, 2016; watercolor and gouache; 30 x 22 in. Courtesy of the artist.
Artist, Author, Filmmaker, and Independent Curator
Faythe Levine is an artist, author, filmmaker, and assistant curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center who is widely credited with articulating the rise of the DIY craft movement. In 2012, she directed the film Sign Painters, which explores the craft of sign painting, and wrote the accompanying book. Levine engaged with the work of Levi Fisher Ames and Albert Zahn by illustrating the title wall with her reflections on artist environments she has visited. She also invited two artists, Norma Jeanne Maloney and Stacey Rozich, to participate in the exhibition.
Faythe Levine installing her response at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center as part of the exhibition FOLK & FABLE: LEVI FISHER AMES & ALBERT ZAHN + FAYTHE LEVINE, 2016.
Faythe Levine—Zine Making
Workshop groups explored work from the exhibition FOLK & FABLE, learning about workshop artist Faythe Levine’s response to the collection.
Through discussion in the gallery, participants got to know Faythe and her work. Upon completion of this brief discussion, participants returned to The ARTery. Participants then learned about zines, a self-published “magazine,” that has no rules in the process of making and their role and existence outside of the mainstream, more traditional media.
Participants then engaged by developing subject, text, and images for creation of their own zines. Groups zines were compiled as small libraries to be housed in their school classrooms.
Jim White and Paul Fonfara—Songwriting Workshop
Workshop participants learned about song structure, chord progression, and discussed how music can influence text and vice versa. After the introduction, groups explored work from the exhibition and collected ideas for the core of a song. Using a call and response approach, they fashioned a beat-oriented rhythm for songs. Ultimately, they worked toward a recorded song that reflects works and ideas of the FOLK & FABLE exhibition.
Listen to songs by workshop participants:
Songwriting workshop with artists Jim White and Paul Fonfara, part of the Connecting Communities programming at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2017.
Join Faythe Levine in this documented video of our Panel Discussion about THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED.
Engage with the curriculum presented by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Education Department. They brought thought-provoking lesson plans to our community that tied in with the FOLK & FABLE exhibition.
Read a special Q & A from the responder, Faythe Levine, in our gallery handout.
If you want to learn even more about Levi Fisher Ames or Albert Zahn, you can purchase an in-depth publication from our online store or at ARTspace.
Dig deeper into conference sessions, view panelist bios and abstracts, read session descriptions, and continue the conversation in session forums by visiting The Road Less Traveled conference portal.
Through this web portal, you will be able to share new ideas and broaden the collective knowledge and appreciation of this unique style of art making that was the focus of a yearlong series of exhibitions at the Arts Center.Learn More
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, Kohler Foundation, Inc., Herzfeld Foundation and Sargento Foods Inc. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) organization; donations are tax deductible.
The Road Less Traveled 50th-anniversary program was conceived by Amy Horst, deputy director for programming. The exhibitions series was organized and curated by Arts Center Curator Karen Patterson. Special thanks to Emily Schlemowitz, assistant curator, for the curation of Driftless: Nick Engelbert & Ernest Hüpeden and Folk & Fable: Levi Fisher Ames & Albert Zahn, and Amy Chaloupka, guest curator of The World in a Garden: Nek Chand and Volumes: Stella Waitzkin.