Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Visit to Mary Nohl's Incredible House

"Mary Nohl's house in Fox Point, WI features a yard filled with concrete figures of people, animals and dinosaurs. The house itself is trimmed with wooden reliefs of fish and other figures. The property is partly fenced by human profiles. This is all much to the dismay of residents of the upper class neighborhood in which the house is located. Nohl’s reclusiveness kept her from being a commercial artist and her art school background also kept her from Outsider Artist status. "

During my visit to Wisconsin last week, Barbara Manger (Milwaukee artist) and her husband Bill Lynch took me to see the home of Mary Nohl. While it is currently not open to the public, it is on the National Register of Historic Sites. One can see the yard from the street, however, and I for one was stunned!

Barbara has written a beautiful book about Mary Nohl. Here is a review from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal:

Outsider artist, sophisticated naïf, and witch are all labels that have described Mary Nohl (1914–2001), creator of a magical and mysterious site on the shore of Lake Michigan near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here she constructed huge concrete heads, stone-encrusted creatures, and imposing driftwood figures to fill the yard surrounding a modest cottage where she spent most of her life. Carved heads hang from the eaves, wind chimes tinkle in the trees, and pebbles at her doorstep spell “Boo.” The cottage is painted and embellished inside and out with wooden fish, boats, animals, and leaping figures. Wire, hemp, chicken bones, egg shells, aluminum pans, broken glass—almost any castoff materials available—were used by Nohl to create her art and ornament her surroundings.
Mary Nohl: Inside & Outside offers the first comprehensive look into the unusual life of a remarkable artist whose surroundings stand as a monument to her creative personality. Establishing Nohl as a notable “outsider” artist, Barbara Manger and Janine Smith offer an inside look at an artist whose idiosyncratic art—pieces whose allure is only heightened by the intrigue and legends surrounding their creator—attracted generations of visitors who peered through the fence at Nohl’s wildly decorated yard but rarely caught a glimpse of the elusive artist.

“This sensitive, meticulously researched book sheds needed light on the life and work of an under-appreciated visionary. It should advance the cause of preserving Mary Nohl’s fragile work in all of its fevered complexity.”—Whitney Gould, former architecture critic and urban landscape writer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Seeing what Mary Nohl created over her lifetime, just around her own house, with stakes from an old fence, rubble, sand from the nearby beach and a bit of concrete... was yet another jolt of energy for my Muse and a jab to me to let loose and create more. This whole trip has been a reminder to me to get out and see more art. One's Muse needs sustenance like any living thing, after all.

Barbara Manger has written a beautiful book about Mary Nohl, which I will be rushing to purchase from Amazon.com HERE today.

You can read a short bio about Mary Nohl HERE.

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