5. Salvation Mountain by Leonard Knight, Mixed Media, mountain-sized, c. 1985-2013
6. Salvation Mountain (interior) by Leonard Knight, Mixed Media, mountain-sized, c. 1985-2013
7. The Swimming Cities of Serenissima by Swoon (and various collaborators), Mixed Media, raft-sized, c. 2009-2012
8. Miss Rockaway Armada by Swoon (and various collaborators), Mixed Media, raft-sized, c. 2006-2009
9. Utitled 340 by Philadelphia Wireman, Wire and found objects, 7” x 5”, c. 1970
10. Untitled 289 by Philadelphia Wireman, Wire and found objects, 4.5” x 2”, c. 1970
Loy Bowlin’s home and much of his work were acquired by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin and I got the chance to visit it when I was in middle school. It has since been one of my favorite exhibitions, so I built this online gallery around some of his characteristics. Bowlin is intriguing because his work seems silly and frivolous but he spent his life dedicated to it and obsessed over it. Loy Bowlin is known as the Original Rhinestone Cowboy quite literally because he covered everything in rhinestones, glitter, and sequins. Like Bowlin, Yayoi Kusama seems to find joy in her work. She has been obsessing over polka dots since she was little. Salvation Mountain is a literal folk art mountain developed for over 25 years until the artist, Leonard Knight’s, death earlier this year. Like a lot of folk art, this is a religious monument, created by Knight to share his faith through his life’s work. Printmaker, street-artist, and activist Swoon and her studio team have been creating large-scale rafts for the past few years out of junk. They are then sent down rivers with crews aboard. A selection of Swoon and her crew’s boats are currently being displayed as part of an installation called “Submerged Motherlands” at the Brooklyn Museum. Finally I’ve included the “Philadelphia Wireman”. Not much is known about the Philadelphia Wireman. About 1,200 wire sculptures were found after his or her death (or so it is assumed) outside of a home in 1982 in Philadelphia. Whoever it was put an incredible amount of time and energy into these mysterious little sculptures.
The artists included in this online exhibition show an immense passion for one thing, or one work of art. I partially chose these works because of how impractical they would be to display in a physical gallery, but how simple they are to display together online. They are all monumental works or collections of works. They may be considered outsider art or folk art may not have always been regarded as “high art”, but now they are valuable and celebrated works. Yayoi Kusama’s work has sold for over $5 million and The Folk Art Society of America decided that Salvation Mountain was worthy of preservation. These pieces were created with whatever materials the artists had, simply to keep the artists making work throughout their lives. The results were expansive anthologies of years of fixation on one thing.