Friends' Newsletter Spring
2006 vol. 4 no. 1
| Director's Column | Documentary
Discs | The Landscape of Cultivation | Miracles of the Spirit |
| Polkabilly | News From Iowa | Announcements |
Narratives Reflect Wisconsin's Unique Art
After fourteen years of exploration
and hard work, authors Ann Parker and Don Krug, have completed
their book, Miracles of the Spirit: Folk, Art, and Stories
from Wisconsin. The idea was born in 1991 when the authors
met in graduate school and in the years to come they would travel
the state, conducting over twenty-six interviews with Wisconsin
artists. Wisconsin enjoys first place when it comes to outsider
artists, self-taught artists, visionaries, or folk artists –
followed by Kansas and California.
The criterion for artist selection
was rather simple: artists who were not formally trained in their
medium, who possessed a real passion for their work, and disregarded
others’ opinions. Finding a good number by word of mouth,
the authors discovered that most artists were not only willing,
but excited to talk about their work. Each narrative reflects
Parker and Krug's belief that, “It is important for people
to talk about their art in their own words,” Parker said.
“Every single one of them said something in the interviews
that blew us out of the water – sometimes for hours.”
Featuring 30 color and 188 black-and-white
photographs, the book is organized geographically into eastern,
central, western and northern regions of the state. Each section
offers a description of the land, lifestyle, and art that characterizes
the opulence of Wisconsin’s cultural landscape. Ranging
from urban areas to small towns and rural communities, '“Artists
are jumping their own boundaries of what they thought they should
and could be doing," said Parker. Many have lived through
the Great Depression and come from cultural traditions that value
working with your hands. Long winters, before T.V. and computers,
were about making due with what you had – not wasting things.”
Speaking in their own words, these
idiosyncratic artists challenge the assumptions that often arise
out of their misrepresentation. “I’m not a big fan
of establishing a hierarchy of value on art,” said Parker.
“I see a real genuine value on every one of the artists
in this book.” From front to back, Miracles of the Spirit,
is just that – a release of energy from the human spirit
that demonstrates the range of what people can do when left to
their own imaginations.
Miracles of the Spirit:
Folk, Art, and Stories from Wisconsin is available through
of Mississippi Press.
Don Krug, Vancouver, British Columbia,
is an associate professor of curriculum studies at the University
of British Columbia. Ann Parker, Baraboo, Wisconsin, is an elementary
art teacher, artist, and photographer.
Jocelyne Bodden is a project assistant at the Center
for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures.