While reading the incredible book, Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds, I was introduced to Emery Blagdon and the realization that I’d finally stumbled across my first gnome. The following article is from the Foundation For Self-Taught American Artists. -RB

In 1986, when Dryden and Christensen were visiting North Platte, they learned the old farmer had died of cancer at 78. He had no will, and his estate was put up for auction.

The friends from New York placed the only bid for the healing machines.

“After more than a decade of absence, I happened to plop in there at a pivotal moment,” he said. Had they not bought Blagdon’s work, it’s likely his creations would have ended up on a scrap heap.
-JOE DUGGAN / Lincoln Journal Star | Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2006 6:00 pm<http://www.journalstar.com/news/local/article_aebdfa60-c9bd-5726-b31b-3bec62d8b9f3.html&gt;

Emery Blagdon

Emery Blagdon

Emery Blagdon

Emery Blagdon constructed the enigmatic environment that is his legacy in a small ramshackle shed on his farm about twenty miles northeast of North Platte, Nebraska, in the desolate Sandhills country. Not much is known about the man himself: he was born to a Lincoln County farming family in 1907, attended school through the eighth grade, and spent much of the Depression years on the road and riding the rails.

In the early 1950s, he inherited his uncle’s 160-acre farm and returned to Nebraska where he worked the land minimally as a subsistence farmer. Around 1955, at age forty-eight, Blagdon embarked on the project that would occupy and sustain him for the next three decades of his life, the construction of a dense network of “Healing Machines.”

As a young man, he apparently lost his parents and three of his five younger siblings to cancer, and he designed his shed––which housed a system of elegant, spindly mobiles and delicate freestanding sculptures made out of baling wire and found objects––to produce energy fields with preventative, restorative, and curative powers. The objects’ reflective, kinetic, and color properties were intended to resonate and release an electromagnetic force to combat physical and psychic pain. Blagdon’s cure also relied on an equally remarkable, but smaller, group of abstract geometrical panel paintings, which display a transcendental sense of color, proportion, and pattern.

Emery Blagdon

Blagdon considered himself more a healer or scientist-inventor than an artist, although he welcomed visitors to view his shed and bask in its regenerative effect. Although a bit of a recluse, his easy manner and willingness to share his work led local pharmacist Dan Dryden on a pilgrimage to view the installation after Blagdon approached him at the pharmacy in search of “earth elements” for his Machines.

“It was just an explosion of color and reflections. It was probably the biggest surprise in the world to me, this phantasmagorical display. The blinking Christmas tree lights were reflecting off the foil. The contrast between the outside dark and inside the shed was just over the top.” –Dan Dryden

Emery Blagdon
After the artist’s death––of cancer––in 1986, Dryden and a friend purchased the shed in its entirety at auction and have since campaigned to restore and exhibit the environment in its original form (with certain smaller pieces for sale commercially). Blagdon’s integral “Healing Machines” environment has been exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fourth Biennale in Lyon, France; after conservation, the environment was acquired by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, for its permanent collection.

Greaves, Brendan. “Emery Blagdon.” Foundation For Self-Taught American Artists.<http://www.foundationstaart.org/artist_single.aspx?artist=42&gt;

The Wonderful Emery Blagdon

The Wonderful Emery Blagdon


Are you ready? I mean, really ready for what I’m about to show you? The beauty of this next clip short circuited me poor little brains and made me a bit sick. Good luck going back to your regular waking consciousness after this. Make it full screen, turn out the lights, and turn the volume up. Bon Voyage, and don’t forget to write…

“Everyone should be able to build, and as long as this freedom to build does not exist, the present-day planned architecture cannot be considered art at all. We must at last put a stop to having people move into their quarters like chickens and rabbits into their coops.”

-Freidensreich Hundertwasser, from Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture

Hundertwasser was born in Vienna in 1928 as Friedrich Stowasser. Around 1949 he exchanged the Czech “Sto-” (which translates to ‘hundred’) in his surname for the German “Hundert-” (which also translates to ‘hundred’). At this same time, he went from “Friedrich” to “Friedensreich” – effectively becoming “Peace-Kingdom Hundred-Water.” He initially gained acclaim for his paintings, but is currently more renowned for his unique architectural stylings. His revolutionary ecological stands with regard to architecture have earned him the nickname “Architecture-Healer.” His works have been used for flags and stamps, coins and posters, schools and churches.

Hundertwasser so believed in the negative influence of “straight line” architecture on one’s health, that he encouraged people to refuse to enter into buildings that were based on the ninety degree angle / grid paradigm. He told people that if they were supposed to meet somebody in one of those straight buildings, they should call from a phone outside and ask the person to meet them under a tree, or in a Baroque pavilion. He said “I will carry a kilogramme of plaster of paris around with me. If I receive an invitation to go somewhere, i will have a look at the building first. If it is a smooth one in which people are confined who are not allowed to do anything, who can do nothing, want to do nothing, I will insist on putting a nice lump of plaster of paris on the wall with my own hands. If I am not permitted to do this I won’t go in.”

Hundertwasser was a big fan of decay, deterioration, rust, vandalism, graffiti – anything that would encroach upon the tyranny of the rigid, measured and sterile world, undermining its fascist authority and returning objects to a state more harmonious with nature. He yearned for bright colors, twisting and irregular lines that reflected man’s meandering path through his day, the unstructured debris of life careening towards entropy. –Ciphe

Hundertwasser Manifestos and Texts

…Hundertwasser’s thoughts are a philosophy of the aesthetic, the life and art in harmony with nature. Mostly the texts were devised and written for special occasions or individual concerns. The publications appeared singular and texts were distributed differently. Hundertwasser saw himself not as a writer but rather as a thinker

Since his first artistic actions his thoughts circulate around the same topics: life, nature and all beauty, what happens between, next to function and profit. It attracts attention that the texts were cumulative subdivided, more targeted and gets more profoundness by and by. They obey not the trends, the rumour of the public and the exchange value, they owe their appearance the diligently and exact study of humans and their manifold interdependences and addictions, necessities and opportunities, but also their lapses…

Walter Schurian, in:
Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Schöne Wege, Gedanken über Kunst und Leben [Beautiful Paths, Thoughts on Art and Life]
Writings 1943 – 1999, Munich 2004 (translation from German)

For more about Hundertwasser, click the photo below.

The Painter-King with the Five Skins

The Painter-King with the Five Skins

Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture


Painting and sculpture are now free, inasmuch as anyone may produce any sort of creation and subsequently display it. In architecture, however, this fundamental freedom, which must be regarded as a precondition for any art, does not exist, for a person must first have a diploma in order to build. Why?

Everyone should be able to build, and as long as this freedom to build does not exist, the present-day planned architecture cannot be considered art at all. Our architecture has succumbed to the same censorship as has painting in the Soviet Union. All that has been achieved are detached and pitiable compromises by men of bad conscience who work with straight-edged rulers.

The individual’s desire to build something should not be deterred! Everyone should be able and have to build and thus be truly responsible for the four walls in which he lives. And one must take the risk into the bargain that such a fantastic structure might collapse later, and one should not and must not shrink from human sacrifice which this new mode of building demands, perhaps demands. We must at last put a stop to having people move into their quarters like chickens and rabbits into their coops.

If such a fantastic structure built by the tenants themselves collapses, it will usually creak beforehand, anyway, so that people will be able to escape. But from then on the tenant will deal more critically and more creatively with the housing he lives in and will bolster the walls and beams with his own hands if they seem too fragile to him.

The tangible and material uninhabitability of slums is preferable to the moral uninhabitability of utilitarian, functional architecture. In the so-called slums only the human body can be oppressed, but in our modern functional architecture, allegedly constructed for the human being, man’s soul is perishing, oppressed. We should instead adopt as the starting point for improvement the slum principle, that is, wildly luxuriantly growing architecture, not functional architecture.

Functional architecture has proved to be the wrong road to take, similar to painting with a straight-edged ruler. With giant steps we are approaching impractical, unusable and ultimately uninhabitable architecture.

For the rest of the Manifesto, click here: PDF-Download

I don’t even know where to begin with a subject like the Coilhouse blog, so go ahead and dig in: Coilhouse.net

Coilhouse in Print

Coilhouse in Print

“Alternative subcultures. They were a crucial aspect of industrial civilization in the two previous centuries. They were where industrial civilization went to dream. A sort of unconscious R&D, exploring alternative social strategies … but they became extinct.”


“We started picking them before they could ripen. A certain crucial growing period was lost, as marketing evolved and the mechanisms of recommodification became quicker, more rapacious. Authentic subcultures required backwaters, and time, and there are no more backwaters…” [William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties]

“COILHOUSE is a love letter to alternative culture, written in an era when alternative culture no longer exists. And because it no longer exists, we take from yesterday and tomorrow, from the mainstream and from the underground, to construct our own version. We cover art, fashion, technology, music and film to create an alternative culture that we would like to live in, as opposed to the one that’s being sold or handed down to us. The result, in the form of articles, features and interviews, is laid out on our blog and in our print magazine for all to see. If our Utopia is your Utopia, then welcome! Anyone can contribute, and we encourage you to go to our submission page and get in touch.

Here, you will find an assemblage of the visual, cerebral, amusing, challenging and, above all, the ever-evolving. Below are samples of the topics you’ll find here, bits of the Info Strada aimed at inspiring literate progress and bringing entertainment to architects of their own past, present and, especially, future:

* cryptohistory and misanthropology
* abandoned structures + sprawling metropolises
* pre-apocalypse pleasure islands
* Genghis Khan’s bow and Hiro Protagonist’s sword
* Siamese twins, and other such nature’s curiosities
* otherworldly beauties with faces painted bright
* unreasonable footwear
* complicated hair
* technological body enhancement
* incredibly strange music
* flagrant futurism
* whalebone, absinthe & silk
* patricide girls
* body scaffolding
* dressing for war

The above is just a taste, and in the COILHOUSE magazine + blog we chronicle our adventures as we research these and our other favorite topics, find out what different people do with them, and why they do it.”

-From Coilhouse’s Mission page

Wonderful to run across something like this: Accidental Discovery…

From KQED’s Spark Program:

It’s wonderfully difficult to describe the work of Sha Sha Higby. Her costumes, or moving sculptures, are tornados of colors, textures and shapes. They look like everything and nothing at the same time. There are no analogies that can fully characterize Higby’s work, but one might be reminded of a Venetian Carnivale mask, African tribal art or a character in Japanese Noh theater.

That familiar images make up an otherworldly whole in her costumes is perhaps appropriate, given the experience of the artist herself. The path of Higby’s artistic development has been a journey through distant places, landing her here in the Bay Area. When Higby was a child, she made birds, filling her house with paintings and drawings of them. Her parents were divorcing at the time, and she described the birds as “something to divert me, a way out.” This artwork was a form of escape, but it was also the first step in her development as an artist.

After college, Higby’s career took flight, carrying her from her home in Marin to Asia. Her experiences abroad give her work its marked Eastern influence. “I studied with a craftsman who creates for the Noh theater. They have very elaborate costumes — and these heads, these masks — they move so slowly, they’re like sculptures. They have this strong, emotional quality, but it’s very slow. It’s subtle.”

Later, Higby received a Fulbright scholarship to study shadow puppetry and make sculptures in Indonesia, a country whose artistic sensibilities balanced well with Japan’s. “I went to Indonesia to study the elaborateness,” she explains. “Japan is simplicity. Indonesia is the fullness of the ornate. … It’s like a flat landscape when you look at it, but when you peel it away, there’s all this richness and complexity of layers, which I like in my work.”

In the Spark episode “Fusion,” get a glimpse of Higby’s creative process, a process that has wandered through time, leaped over oceans and slowly grown by accretion. Each individual costume that is used in performance can take years to make and is informed by a lifetime of experience. The semi-abstract nature of Higby’s costumes allows viewers to color the experience with their own imagination — one might end up in a place far away that the artist herself may not have imagined. With her art, Higby has found her journey and achieved her escape. The hope is that the viewers will find theirs as well.



Hay, kids.

I’m hoping to find an easy place to store all the information that accumulates in my heed. Believe me, it’s not much, but it’s all I think about. I’m also extremely self-conscious about my lack of writing ability, so I’m going to embarrass myself and practice right here, in front of all y’all.

Lately people have commented quite a bit about my book recommendations, and this blog begins with a lovely stock photo of several oldies, so this here link should get you started: Resources…