The Road Less Traveled Exhibition Series



Apr. 30 - Aug. 20, 2017

Mary Nohl found conventional boundaries unrewarding and pursued her own creative path as she transformed her lakeside home and yard into a multifaceted art environment. This exhibition embraced Nohl’s broad artistic practice, and presented paintings, sculptures, and illustrations from the Arts Center collection.

Explore the exhibition

Ends Aug. 2017

About this exhibition

Mary Nohl (1914–2001) was a wood-carver, painter, sculptor, ceramist, printmaker, potter, writer, illustrator, and jeweler who described herself as simply “a woman who likes tools.”

Nohl was also an environment builder; her creations permeated every room in her home and between every tree in her yard. She was deeply influenced by the Lake Michigan shoreline and her woodland surroundings.

She mixed concrete from the sand and stone of her beachfront property to build dozens of sculptures. Her colorful wooden reliefs of swimmers and boaters graced the home’s exterior. Wind chimes and wooden fish hung in the trees. Inside her home, in addition to altering every wall, light fixture, vase, and piece of furniture, Nohl worked on paintings, jewelry, glass sculptures, wood assemblages, ceramics, wire figures, and puppets.

In the spring of 2015, after some doubts about whether or not the art environment could remain in situ, the Arts Center embarked on a large-scale restoration of Nohl’s lake cottage in its original Fox Point, Wisconsin, location.

For this exhibition of works from the Arts Center’s collection, Catherine J. Morris, the Sackler Family Curator for Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, chose works that highlighted Mary Nohl as a prolific artist in many media. The selections showcased Nohl as a creative individual with an identity beyond that of an outlier in her community.

explore the collections

Mary Nohl at her Lake Cottage (Fox Point, WI), 1994. Photo: Ron Byers.



Catherine J. Morris is the Sackler Family Curator for Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, with an emphasis in using feminism in art as a methodology, and working to assert histories that complicate singular narratives.

Dig A Little Deeper...

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 GREETINGS AND SALUTATIONS AND BOO exhibition.

Read a special Q & A from the responder, Catherine Morris, in our gallery handout.

If you want to learn even more about Mary Nohl, you can purchase an in-depth publication from our online store or at ARTspace.


Queens and Kings

The Road Less Traveled Conference

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.