The fantastic new Art Preserve, created by the Kohler Foundation, is a continuation and culmination of their long-running work to preserve outsider art. The JM Kohler Art Center has displayed works of outsiders for decades. The Kohler foundation has preserved numerous locations (most of which are reviewed elsewhere on this site). However, it became apparent that a permanent home was needed to preserve and protect many of the collections no longer in situ. The new building devoted to the Art Preserve is stunning.

“Outsider Art” is a generic, catch-all term referring to artists who generally aren’t classically trained or schooled (Mary Nohl is an exception). The artists use material that is readily available – concrete, broken glass, sequins, poster paint, bits of wood and other found objects. Most of this material is not meant to last the test of time, at least in an artistic setting. As such, many of the collections soon start to deteriorate if they aren’t curated properly.

The appeal of Outsider Art is generally not the quality and skill of the artist, but quantity and vast amounts of enthusiasm. Why spend a year creating a small painting, when you can cover your entire house in sequins? If you like one mask, why not cover your house in them? To heck with carving in finicky, expensive marble when you can sculpt your entire neighborhood in cement and broken beer bottles!

The meaning of the art is varied. For some, creating was an amusement, a hobby for retirement or for passing long winter nights. Much of this art is whimsical and accessible.

Still other collections show a strong obsessive streak. Where does creativity end and madness begin? Many of these collections have no line or limit. Their repetitive themes and overwhelming masses of objects are unnerving. Why create this item or theme, over and over, thousands of times? What does it mean? Often there is no answer and the collection was found after the death of the creator.

Whether you find the art amusing or uncomfortable, unskilled or an expression of true heart-felt creativity, there is something here that will catch your eye and remain in your mind long after you leave. A must see, for sure!

Art Preserve
3636 Lower Falls Road
Sheboygan, WI 53081