John Michael Kohler Arts Center
The power of storytelling—whether through words, images, or figures—unites the artists featured in FOLK & FABLE.
Wisconsin artists Levi Fisher Ames (1843–1923) and Albert Zahn (1864–1953) carved animals out of wood to create wondrous worlds that were both imaginary and instructive.
Ames made hundreds of miniatures of real and mythic creatures that became the “L.F. Ames Museum of Art,” a traveling tent show. He recounted both tall and truthful tales about his “specimens” to the delight of audiences, tapping into the popularity of the circuses and sideshows that were prevalent throughout Wisconsin.
Zahn spent his days carving woodland creatures in the forest surrounding his home in Baileys Harbor. By the early 1930s, hundreds of carvings dotted the house and yard. Zahn’s birds, flora, and fauna were a vivid ode to his love of nature; the many angels and a towering family tree bespoke his dedication to traditional values. Owing to the plethora of winged forms, Zahn’s art environment was named “Birds Park.”
Faythe Levine (TN), who collaborated with the Arts Center in developing the exhibition, connects with Ames and Zahn through her own art and varied curatorial practices. To broaden the collaboration, Levine invited master sign painter Norma Jeanne Maloney (TX) and watercolorist Stacey Rozich (CA) to summon the realms of Ames and Zahn through their own visual language.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.