Τρίτη, 22 Αυγούστου 2017

"Saving the Art and Home of Mary Nohl, Whose Neighbors Called Her a Witch" by Allison Meier

Mary Nohl at her lake cottage environment (1994) (photo by Ron Byers, courtesy John Michael Kohler Arts Center)
FOX POINT, Wisconsin — Mary Nohl knew what some of the neighbors thought of her house. It was unlike any home in the Milwaukee suburb, with colossal concrete heads looming between the slender trees, driftwood sculptures adorning the colorful siding, and wooden cut-outs of boats and fish decorating the garage. For 50 years, Nohl constantly tinkered with the art, adding lattices of concrete faces and glass that caught the light, wind chimes in the trees, and whimsical mosaic creatures. She called herself simply “a woman who likes tools.” However, to many suspicious of this single woman toiling away at her eclectic cottage on the Lake Michigan shore, she was the “Witch of Fox Point.” So, on her front steps, she embedded in pebbles the greeting: “BOO.”
“She lived the myth making,” artist Alex Gartelmann, who is now living in and restoring Nohl’s house, said as we stepped inside. “And she was above it all.” While the interior of the house in Fox Point, Wisconsin, is now mostly empty as Mary Nohl’s Art Environment has been undergoing a restoration project since 2015, there are traces of the dense art that filled it from floor to ceiling. Stained glass covers the windows (“Almost all doors and windows once had stained glass,” Gartlemann explained), skeletons made from chicken bones hover on the kitchen cabinets, and along the fireplace in the living room, a snake chases an apple.
Mary Nohl’s Art Environment in Fox Point, Wisconsin (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
On the floor of the living room, wooden fish in various sizes and conditions were arranged from large to small. Gartlemann is examining which can be restored and returned to the house, and which will need to be recreated. Nohl nailed the originals on the walls; the reinstallation will use a hanging system so pieces can be removed without damage. The process is part of an ongoing effort to return the home to what it looked like around 1998, when Nohl was still active and the art was at its peak. The exterior was recently repainted, drainage in the lawn improved, and windows have been replaced. Light now streams into the living room through a new picture window, with the deep blue of Lake Michigan visible through the overgrown trees. Once, the room had a direct view to the water. Years of trespassing and vandalism led Nohl to put up a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, and the plants were allowed to grow.
Nohl’s living room is currently on view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center(JMKAC) in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which manages the art environment and is overseeing its restoration (Gartlemann is the JMKAC exhibitions project coordinator). The site was left by Nohl to the Kohler Foundation, and in 2012 was gifted to JMKAC. On one wall in the JMKAC exhibition, across from the buoyant assemblage of midcentury furniture, mobiles made from painted eggs, and a hanging horse rider formed from wire, is a panorama of Lake Michigan.
Installation view of Mary Nohl’s living room in Greetings and Salutations and Boo at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Called “Frozen Blue” (2017), the collage photograph is by Cecelia Condit, one of many artists who have received grants through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Nohl Fund. When Mary Nohl passed away in December of 2001 at the age of 87, she left $11.3 million dollars — her whole estate — for the support of local arts. Condit’s photograph returns that sprawling lake view to her living room, and it also reflects how Nohl was far from an “outsider” artist, and that she cared deeply about the place where she was born and died. From the concrete sculptures made from beach sand, to the nautical themes of the wood cut-outs, the subjects were as site-specific as the work itself.
The living room is the centerpiece of Greetings and Salutations and Boo: Mary Nohl + Catherine Morris, an exhibition that’s part of the JMKAC’s 2017 The Road Less Traveled celebrating the museum’s 50th anniversary. Each of the 15 rotating shows focuses on a different art environment, with a contemporary creator, scholar, or thinker engaging with the work in a new way. JMKAC curator Karen Patterson approached Catherine Morris, curator for the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, to organize selections of Nohl’s art. Nohl studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and was multidisciplinary in her practice, working on a small-scale with silver and stone jewelry, up to a towering “Stickman” sculpture. She had a modernist experimentation in her use of industrial materials like metal and cement, and she delved into ceramics, paintings, and lithographs. She even wrote a graphic novel called “Danny the Diver,” inspired by her brother Max who was a salvage diver. [...]
Installation view of Mary Nohl’s living room in Greetings and Salutations and Boo at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
To read full text, written by Allison Meier, and see more of Mary Nohl's work, please visit: 
GREETINGS AND SALUTATIONS AND BOO: MARY NOHL 360°:




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