In a sun-dappled wooded lot just south of Sheboygan and a stone's throw from the Lake Michigan shoreline stands a rustic cabin surrounded by realistic, if often fanciful, concrete statues.
It was the summer home of James Tellen, a furniture factory worker with a passionate avocation. The woods are filled with figures depicting prairie settlers, country life, and subjects of religious devotion.
Like Nick Engelbert, creator of Grandview, Tellen began sculpting when he found himself idle due to illness. Although not formally trained as an artist, Tellen adhered to classical notions of Art following nature, and strove to make his work as realistic as possible. Works that did not meet his exacting standards were buried on his land, perhaps leaving a mysterious finding for future archaeologists.
The site has been restored by the Kohler Foundation and given to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center to run. Visitors can contact the Arts Center to make an appointment to visit the Tellen Sculpture Garden, or you can explore it here on our virtual tour.
No appointment is needed to visit "Concrete Ideas" now on display at the Kohler Art Center. With works from its permanent folk art collection, the museum shows how untrained artists, like James Tellen, have used this inexpensive material to convey their artistic vision.
The exhibit shows work by some of the artists featured in Portal Wisconsin's summer folk art tour as well as other midwesterners and even works from India by Nek Chand. See this exhibit or visit the James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden and you may want to head to the hardware store to find out what you can make out of this ubiquitous, but supple material.