Starting in the 1960s in rural Nebraska, Emery Blagdon (1907–1986) built an increasingly dense environment filled with sculptures made of baling wire and aluminum foil, brightly colored paintings, hand-painted lightbulbs, salts, and other organic matter. Impacted by personal tragedy, Blagdon worked for nearly thirty years on this constantly changing installation called “The Healing Machine.” His intent was to channel the earth’s energies to alleviate pain and illness.
The Healing Machine could not be preserved in situ and is now in the Arts Center’s collection.
Harry Bertoia (1915–1978), a prominent Modernist designer, made hundreds of sounding sculptures from the early 1960s until his death in 1978. These works are known collectively as Sonambients. He installed several sculptures in a stone barn on his property for performances that have been described as spiritual, enlightening, and transformative.
Shannon R. Stratton collaborated with the Arts Center on An Encounter With Presence. For the exhibition, she drew connections between Bertoia’s Sonambient metal sculptures and Blagdon’s “pretties” made of aluminum foil and baling wire. Although operating from very different vantage points, Blagdon and Bertoia both built deeply moving environments designed to connect them with nature and its energies. She facilitated the inclusion of Harry Bertoia’s “Sonambient” sound and sculptures and an original composition imagining the sound inside Blagdon’s art environment by sound artist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe.
Shannon Stratton is the William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC. With specific interest in fiber/material studies, regionalism, art activism, and ideas surrounding amateurism and craft, Stratton responded to the materiality and atmosphere of Emery Blagdon’s “The Healing Machine.”
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe records sounds of the work of Emery Blagon in the exhibition An Encounter with Presence: Emery Blagdon + Shannon Stratton at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2017.
Join Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Shannon R. Stratton in a 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 AN ENCOUNTER WITH PRESENCE exhibition.
Read a special Q & A from the responder, Shannon R. Stratton, in our gallery handout.
If you want to learn even more about Emery Blagdon, 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.