- November 16, 2021
- Posted by: Phil Block
- Category: Photography
During a recent visit to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) in Sheboygan, I learned about the James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden, which is now under the care and supervision of the JMKAC. Following a fall visit to the main JMKAC galleries, a friend and I toured the Tellen Sculpture Garden. It was a fascinating destination, and as usual, I captured many of the interesting sights there in pictures.
On their website, Wandering Wisconsin provides background on this unique attraction:
The James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden is nestled in the Town of Wilson woods just south of Sheboygan. This site, cared for by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, is dotted with sculptures loosely connected by a woodland path.
James Tellen (1880–1957) was inspired to create his sculptures after a stay recuperating at St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan. He spent time gazing out his window at the yard of the Holy Name Church across the street where there were intriguing grottos built of rounded stones with statues of the Virgin Mary and other holy figures. A devout Catholic, Tellen was receptive to the power of these figures integrated in a natural setting. Uniting his interest in art, nature, and religion, Tellen decided to tackle large-scale sculpting, using concrete rather than marble or stone to mold his outdoor pieces.
Tellen created his outdoor works at the family summer log cabin site. Many of his pieces impart moral messages. Dogs flanking a flirtatious woman and cowboy at the well may symbolize loyalty while a nearby picnic scene with a fallen-down-drunk chastised by his fuming wife counsels sobriety. A love of nature and a deep-seated spirituality is evident in Tellen’s work.
Today the site is free and open to the public, and the log home often hosts visiting artists during their stays.
The Kohler Foundation provides more of the story here. Watch this ten-minute YouTube video to learn even more about James Tellen the artist, how he created his woodland sculptures, and how he fashioned the rustic interior of the log cabin. Finally, the video gives you a look inside the adjacent Pub and Brat House.
James Tellen, a furniture-maker by trade, created thirty imaginative concrete figures in his wooded back yard, including one of Abe Lincoln chopping wood. Below are my photos of many of the sculptures, seen amid autumn’s fallen leaves during our November visit.
Onsite buildings include the Tellen log cabin, Brat House, and Studio. While his main home was in Sheboygan, Tellen chose the woodsy Black River area, now located in the Town of Wilson, as the setting for his second home and what would become his Woodland Sculpture Garden.
Every fall, I enjoy photographing the natural beauty of fallen leaves. Their unique shapes, colors, and interesting patterns as they lay fallen on the ground delight me.