A selection of great art environments from the American roadside: over the top, deeply personal and intensely creative
Emory Blagdon’s magnificent Healing Machines, as shown at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wis.
The Coral Castle
3 Vernacular Art Cars
Howard Finster’s incomparable garden
Joe Wiser’s Bottle Cap Inn in Miami was featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, but more importantly it was a triumph of an obsessive personal vision.
Wisconsin doesn’t have a lock on visionary creations or outsider art. But per square mile, the quality and number of its roadside art environments are unmatched.
Eddie Owens Martin, or St. Eom, had all the makings of a crackpot, but his creation, Pasaquan, embodies an implausibly compelling spirituality.
If you took the cutoff from Highway 61 into Vicksburg, Miss., and had need of 1. sundries, 2. spiritual uplift or 3. a powerful folk-art environment, you could stop at Margaret’s Groceries. The Rev. H.D. Dennis, who encased the country store inside and out with his sculpture and fantastic architecture, would preach you a personal sermon while his wife Margaret stood ready to meet your earthly needs.
There are few views more stunning than the one W.C. Rice gave drivers on a back road near Prattville, Ala., northwest of Montgomery. His messages were uncompromising, his imagery frightening in its starkness.
E.T. Wickham’s environment in northern Tennessee is mostly in ruins, but it retains a spooky eloquence.
Pinwheels, whirlygigs and old oil bottles — store-bought kitsch — become a highly personal garden around a trailer on Highway 51, north of Cairo, Ill.
A pique assiette folk-art fence tucked away in Chicago’s Bowmanville neighborhood.