While grassroots art can be found – as it should be – scattered in random rural locations throughout Kansas, there also is a self-conscious concentration of it in the small Kansas town of Lucas which has a storefront museum in some old limestone buildings devoted to grassroots art. This is the art stereotypically practiced by self-taught, iconoclastic loners – like farmers and ranchers – but also by trained artists and savvy hipsters living in remote places and it ranges from enticing odd to childlike to a little scary. A relative of folk art, grassroots art sometimes is called visionary art, naïve art, or primitive art.
You’ll see it all in Lucas – not only at the Grassroots Art Center but at a few other locations in town. When we visited a few years ago in December, someone from the museum took me, my husband and two young-teen kids, to a plain little unheated bungalow on a quiet street a few blocks away – and inside was the most astonishing sight. Every single room was covered with Barbies – yes, that Barbie – and other dolls. There were Barbies dripping from walls covered in aluminum foil and piled up in the bathtub, Barbies exotically-decorated and decked out in every which way. If this hadn’t been labeled “art” it might instead be viewed as a “cry for help.” We were all a bit spooked walking around this ice cold bungalow of Barbies – including my daughter who was never a huge Barbie fan but played with them occasionally. Check it out yourself at http://www.kansastravel.org/isis.htm
In the backyard is local Lucas legend Florence Deeble’s Rock Garden – a rather worn collection of “concrete postcards” – sculptures depicting famous places Florence visited, such as Mount Rushmore. A few blocks away, is the real Lucas masterpiece (which inspired young Florence and spawned the Grassroots Art Center) known as The Garden of Eden. Again, stay tuned.