“Folly” is a British word they use to describe a “crazy” house and it is an American word for a crazy thing to do. Both follies apply to us. Our trip as wandering book artists may seem a fools’ errand to many: trying to spread the word about the artists’ book by travelling around the country in a gypsy wagon. To some our wagon home seems the most outrageous of RVs in any campground.
When we made our first blog post we were in Nevada and now we are in Nebraska. We have found a few other follies along the road. The first was “Thunder Mountain,” a rambling set of structures built just off Interstate 80 in Imlay, Nevada. It was built in the 50s and 60s by Frank Van Zant, also known as Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder, who described his roadside art park variously as a museum, a monument to the American Indian, a retreat for pilgrims aspiring to the “pure and radiant heart.” It is filled with crumbling cement statues, wobbly architectural towers and weeds growing up through stone huts.
The second sort of folly, perhaps more interesting to the book lovers that read this blog was the Gilgul Sculpture Garden Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was built between 1947 and 1963 by LDS businessman Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. and is the only designated "visionary art environment" in the state of Utah. The park is filled with symbolic statuary associated with the Morman Religion. There are sculptures and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems and literary texts.
Then there was our own campsite-finding folly in Fossil Butte, Wyoming. The guidebook said to just follow the gravel road a mile and there will be a campsite in an old gravel quarry. We found the quarry, but only after going by the “No Trespassing” signs, and by the height of the weeds in the road it was clear no one else had attempted to stay there for years.
This is only a partial folly, or no folly at all. It is the wall mural made by Karen Kunc at her new “Constellation Studio” in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kunc has converted an old mercantile building into a studio space where visiting visual artists can come to work with her. One outside wall is painted with a mammoth version of her typically etching press-sized artwork.
We are continuing our way across the country and will end this week in Chicago on Friday afternoon at the Newberry Library.