Folk Art

Donıs Sculpture Garden, Beulah


Itıs Don Crossmanıs vision of a perfect world. Bucolic farm animalsŠcows, pigs, and chickensŠpeacefully coexisting with elephants and giraffes. Cartoon characters bursting to life, Uncle Sam on hand to keep everyone patriotic, and Jesus in plain sight to remind everyone ³that there is a Jesus.² ³You put it all together, it sounds about like what Iıd want in the world,² the 71-year old retired welder told Weird Michigan.

Crossman used to run a small farm with a few animals, and when he retired from his welding job five years ago, he decided it would be nice to have some cows around that didnıt require milking. He had always tinkered with small art projects in his spare time, and discovered he liked to weld objects together to create little sculptures. He started by turning a big tank into a giant cow, and it received a lot of attention from the neighbors and family. People started dropping off other old tanks, and Crossman began scouring local junkyards for appropriate materials. ³Iıd go through them and pick out what I needed,² he said. ³Then my grandkids started saying, why donıt you make this and why donıt you make that, so I started on the cartoons. I had plans to make a lot more but then my health took me down.²

Most of the figures took about a week to create, said Crossman. ³The paintingıs what took the time. As far as slapping them together, I could do that in two or three days. I made them out of my head.² The Jesus figure, arms outstretched in welcome, was Crossmanıs last creation, and he wonıt be making any more, he says. People are always asking to buy them, but Crossman says his sculptures arenıt for sale. ³Then I wouldnıt have them,² he explained, ³and theyıre all one of a kind. I hope you enjoy them, itıs one of the reasons I done it, so people enjoy it.²

Donıs Sculpture Garden can be seen at 8775 US Hwy. 31 between Honor and Beulah in Benzie County. Photos courtesy of Sally Gavic.


Doll Garden of Frights

doll art madness

Is it art or Barbie nightmares? Toy Story gone bonkers? Madison Heights Doll Garden of Frights Is it art or a Barbie nightmare? Toy Story gone bonkers? An apocalyptic version of Disneyworldıs ³Small, Small World² exhibit? Madison Heights artist Michael Dion, whose signs his work ³M80,² has filled his backyard with his own macabre vision of what happens when good dolls go bad. Visible through a chain-link fence from the sidewalk on Campbell (between 12-mile and 13-mile Roads) M80 has posed a great variety of dismembered and tattered dolls in metal and wooden assemblages. Thereıs a black-haired doll head wearing a white cowboy hat and anchored to an old wagon wheel, which is attached to a wooden chair frame, with a small arm waving from the seat. A one-legged Barbie stands sentinel next to a wooden box that contains a pleading child doll next to a few crumbling flower pots A plastic chicken wears a cracked baby doll head instead of its own. This is not your motherıs dollhouse. M80 refers to the yard as an ³installation² in a Detroit MetroTimes article by Sarah Klein. Despite the dark, prickly street ambience of the exhibits, he says that there exists something sweet and tender within his "vignettes," since he rescues discarded dolls and gives them a second life. The self-taught artist and antiques dealer also recycles other trashed objects and toys for his multi-media pieces. M80 occasionally exhibits in galleries, but his backyard is an ongoing show. Whatever emotions the forlorn, recycled dolls evoke in visitors, M80ıs back yard remains an ironic turnabout on the typical green, empty lawns of American suburbia. (See full story and more pix in upcoming "Weird Michigan" due late spring, 2006).



Nunica's Stonehenge

Why should Great Britain have all the good Druidic ruins? That is what one Michigan couple has evidently asked themselves, and come up with their own solution. Fred and Pam Levin, rural Nunica, have turned the front yard of their seven-acre horse farm into a foam-and-stucco sculpture replicating England's Stonehenge. The Levins went online to find the original site's actual measurements, then tinkered a bit. The foam megaliths in the Levin yard stand thirteen feet tall, almost the same height as Stonehenge, but the arrangement's diameter is only about half that of the original set. A contractor did the work in six weeks for them, using a variety of photographs as a placement guide. Each foam block is anchored by a metal beam set into the ground below. The couple is interested in sacred spaces from a variety of belief systems worldwide, and has also created a Cretan labyrinth-style meditation path and an American Indian medicine wheel garden. Fred, an orthopedic surgeon, has also enlarged a natural spring on his property to add ponds and streams. The Stonehenge sculpture is on private property, no trespassing allowed, but can be seen from the road. Just south of town on Leonard Road.

Mailbox Mania

Winters are long in the UP. What else is there to do but construct elaborate, miniature, blow-by-blow wooden versions of your entire farm and then mount them as mailboxes? Whom other than Yoopers would spend so much time and energy just to bring some daily joy to the heart of their rural mail carrier? We spotted this beauty in the UP, in Ramsay, off Highway 2 between Wakefield and Bessemer on Sanders Road. Another yard a few houses down sports a (God knows why) colossal barber pole in the backyard, but we couldn't get a very good shot of it. Here are photos of the actual farm (left) and the artisan's mini-farm world. Perhaps this winter the unknown artist will create a scale model of downtown Bessemer.




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