Category Archives: grassroots art

garden of Eden and grassroots art everywhere in Lucas,Ks



Grassroots art – eccentric work by self-taught, prolific everyday folks (ranchers, farmers, welders, homemakers) – is everywhere in the out-of–the-way northwestern Kansas town of Lucas. it is actually fitting that art that is so “out there” should be way out here, far from the mainstream of most things, including the art world.

bathroom mosaic

This was probably my 5th trip to Lucas in over 30 years and there is more to see each visit. The main draw is the remarkable Garden of Eden, a bizarre sculpture garden with giant concrete representations of populis themes — my favorite is one of a farmer being crucified by the banker, lawyer and doctor. And then there’s the giant limestone and concrete ziggurat looking mausoleum where you can peer into the coffin of the civil war veteran S.P. Dinsmoor who built the garden. (He is looking moldy these days, which our guide explained was due to a crack in the sheet of glass in front of the coffin, which let air in. it has been fixed but not before substantial damage.)

grassroots art

The garden and house — also a work of oddness, made of limestone logs — sits on an otherwise normal Kansas small town street, which is part of the charm and shock effect. But the garden and its sculptures in particular have never looked better after a recent massive multi-million dollar restoration funded by the Kohler Foundation ( from the Bath works company in Wisconsin).

And even more so, the two block downtown has more to see, including the Grassroots Art Center in an old limestone masons building,where we went on a very informative tour of several rooms and an outdoor courtyard showcasing the odd work of artists primarily from Kansas. ( “Grassroots  art” was likened to “outsider art” but not “folk art.”)

There is also a phenomenal new public bathroom full of bizarre mosaics and the otherwise ordinary wood street lights are art installations. (One has various colorful belts strapped around it. Another has glass sculptures and two legs sticking up from the ground. Could it be the wicked witch of the west?)

We also found artworks in fields on Highway 14 heading to Lincoln and along Highway 18 to Lucas and Highway 232 back to Wilson and the interstate.

One disappointment: Brant’s meat market, which has sold homemade bologna for 90-some years in downtown Lucas, closed in January but the word on the street (literally from two townies sitting on a bench outside the market) is that it will reopen this summer, thanks to a new buyer.

I was glad to see “the Garden View  Airbnb”  now operating across the street from the Garden of Eden (run by our tour guide, who is also a cousin of Dinsmoor ) and the old hotel in Wilson (where the Movie “Paper Moon” was filmed) is still up and running. It also has a restaurant that serves dinner. Otherwise dining options are limited. We ended up about an hour west in Hays at Al’s Chickenette, which has been around since 1947 (and also has a new owner) where we had, yes, fried chicken. Very different than the upscale version we had in KC the night before but good in its own way (except for the mashed potatoes and gravy which were grey and gooey. get the fries. Much better.)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under grassroots art, Kansas

National Civil Rights Museum/Memphis, Memphis BBQ/not on Memphis, City grocery, Square Books and Snack bar in Oxford, MS

I went to the Lorraine Motel where MLK was murdered for the third time today and was amazed to see that a woman who was protesting a proposed civil rights museum on the site back in 1989 was still there with her protest signs. She apparently thinks it memorializes the murderer. I disagree. I was as impressed today as I was during my second visit to the site (when it was a museum) about 9 years ago with Noah. It does a powerful job of laying out what led to the Civil Rights Movement and eventually MLK’s murder, with a dramatic finale: the (now glass-enclosed) motel room where MLK was shot on the balcony.It was poignant to visit this place now, with so much racial unrest. Still.

 

The City Grocery, Oxford,MS

Tonight we are staying in another really cool Airbnb in the woods south of Oxford,MS.  It’s on the ground floor of a house in a rural area with an unlikely contemporary art gallery (the Tree House Gallery) on the edge of a two lane winding country road. We have our own apartment with not one boring piece of furniture, artwork or rug. Shabby chic, interesting art everywhere, antiques, rugs from foreign lands. It’s a treat. And there is a huge screened in porch above us that I hope to linger on tomorrow morning.

Our Airbnb in the woods outside Oxford

Not surprisingly, my stomach is rebelling from all the rich food we have been eating. We tried another BBQ place recommended by locals (Memphis BBQ in Horn Lake, MS) but didn’t like it as much as Central BBQ – atmosphere was too fast foody. In Oxford, we stopped to browse in  the charming and very Southern square at the famous Square Books and had a beer on the second floor balcony of  The City Grocery, a beloved second story old bar overlooking the square (which reminds us a bit of Franklin, TN) and ate rich food at Snackbar nearby (fried oysters in a creamy sauce for me and dirck and I split “Vietnamese coffee ice cream” which had thru-the-roof butterfat content. My stomach is starting bubble up again just thinking about it.)Locals were raving about new places — Saint Leo’s (for pizza) off Oxford’s Square and Grit in the tiny town of Taylor (famous for the Taylor Grocery, a southern restaurant in a building that barely looked open anymore (part of the charm, apparently). Sadly, it wasn’t open on a Monday.

Memphis airbnb

Leave a comment

Filed under Airbnb, grassroots art, Memphis, Mississippi

Kooky Kansas: pt. 2 Lucas

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under grassroots art, Kansas, Kansas misc