Academic journal article Western Folklore

Miracles of the Spirit: Folk, Art, and Stories from Wisconsin

Academic journal article Western Folklore

Miracles of the Spirit: Folk, Art, and Stories from Wisconsin

Article excerpt

Miracles of the Spirit: Folk, Art, and Stories from Wisconsin. By Don Krug and Ann Parker. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005. Pp. xxvi + 315, acknowledgments, foreword, introduction, photographs, maps, bibliography, index. $65.00 cloth)

As a child, I can remember driving with my family past the old witch's house along the shores of Lake Michigan. There were all kinds of stories about her, which my parents always corrected, but to our youthful minds the yard environment that Mary Nohl had created was a playground for the imagination. It was not until I read Miracles of the Spirit: Folk, Art, and Stories from Wisconsin that I knew her name, or even that she had passed away in 2001, but I recognized the photograph of her yard in an instant.

Aldiough avoiding the term "outsider" in the tide of their book, authors Don Krug and Ann Parker have nonetiieless collected all twentysix of their interviews from Wisconsin artists chosen because of histories that would label them outsider artists by most definitions, seeking "to include only living artists / makers who were not artistically schooled when they began their art Odysseys" (xxvi). They eschewed artists who had appropriated the styles of other "outsider artists" as well as "folk artists" who followed the traditions of their ethnic backgrounds (xx-xxi). The audiors' approach brings up one of the most important issues we must face when examining folk art and outsider art: how should a researcher interact widi the boundaries of genre? The authors seem to play with the notion that outsider artists are a type of folk artists, but do not develop tins theme. At the end of the book, they address larger issues surrounding the concept of "outsider art," and touch on the history of the field (bodi locally and in academia), in three brief theoretical pieces: "The Life of Ideas" (253), "Miracles of the Spirit of Art" (275), and "Artistic Individualism in the United States and Europe (289). These theory pieces, though doubdess illuminating for an entry-level reader, do not break any new ground.

The strengdi of the book lies in the main body, the interviews of the artists organized into five geographical areas across the state. The book could serve as a sort of travel guide for those interested in visiting outsider artists in Wisconsin; each of the five sections begins with a glowing overview of that part of the state, highlighting some of the folk-art and outsider-art attractions of the region. …

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