FolkArtwork Newsletter No. XX: Mary Ann Wilson, Howard Finster, Grandma Moses, and More in this Week in Outsider Art


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MARY ANN WILSON Pelican with Young (ca. 1800-1830) // Ink and watercolor with stenciling on paper via RISD Museum
HOWARD FINSTER Model of a Space Hotel to Come (1983) // Shadowbox construction of wood with glass front and interior layer of glass; plastic beads on wire; cloth flowers via Philadelphia Museum of Art
GRANDMA MOSES Turkeys (1958) // Oil on pressed wood via Smithsonian American Art Museum
MADGE GILL Untitled (1954) // Ink on card via Milwaukee Art Museum
CARLO ZINELLI Untitled (n.d.) // Gouache and ink via Collection de l’Art Brut
DAVIS WOHLFORD North American Sheep (date unknown) // Mixed media collage on canvas board via North Pole Studio
Possibly MARY T. SMITH? or WILLIE JINKS? Untitled (date unknown) via abcd / ART BRUT
DAVID BUTLER Jonah in the Whale (date unknown) // Paint on Metal; 29″ x 18″ via Black Sheep Gallery
SAM DOYLE Welcome Table (c. 1970-1980) // House paint on roofing tin via High Museum of Art
ESTHER PEARL WATSON Grass Burrs (2019) // Acrylic and glitter on wood via Webb Gallery












FATHER MATTHIAS WERNERUS The Dickeyville Grotto (1925-1930)

Dickeyville Grotto: Art Environment Tour #8

I’ve seen my fair share of Midwestern religious grottoes. I started in West Bend, Iowa, to visit the Grotto of Redemption. Then, I traveled to Cedar Rapids and West Burlington to see Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto and Our Lady of Grace, respectively. All gorgeous, all hard to fathom, and fabulous in their own right. In every photo and video posted, everyone kept saying the same thing, “you have to go to Dickeyville.”

Growing up in the Midwest, you develop not so much a fear of flying but a willingness to drive absolutely anywhere. So what was a lovely little four-hour drive across Iowa on the way to Milwaukee to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum? Right! It’s no problem at all! Luckily, on a cold, snowy day in Wisconsin, my wife traveled with me to visit one of the more amazing grottoes I have seen this past year. Only the Grotto of the Redemption holds a candle to Dickeyville (bigger is better is what I learned living in Texas!), but Dickeyville is well worth the trip and one of a kind in its own right.

The Dickeyville Grotto stretches across the entire church grounds and cemetery with numerous shrines and grottoes celebrating religion and country, there was so much to take in, and every turn proved better than the last. The colors, the antique heirlooms sprinkled throughout the precious stones were mesmerizing. How does one think of something like this? 

The Main Grotto was last shrine completed by Father Wernerus and contains within it the shrine of the Blessed Virgin. On either side of the main grotto is a pillar fashioned of Rose Quartz from South Dakota, one crowned with an American Flag and the other with the Papal Flag; Patriotism and Religion. On the face of the arch of the Grotto, inlaid in stone, are the fifteen decades of the Rosary, the official prayer of the Mother of God. The statue is made of Italian White Carrara Marble and was sculptured in Europe. On the face of this little altar there is inlaid a very small cross with was made by the first Indian Convert Father Marquette, the missionary priest who discovered the Mississippi River. The walls of the interior are inlaid with precious stones from all over the world, along with beautiful shells and rare corals.


There are several shrines in the Grotto garden. Besides the main shrine (which houses the Grotto of the Blessed Virgin), there is a patriotic shrine, the sacramental shrine of the Holy Eucharist, the Sacred Heart shrine, Christ the King shrine, Fatima shrine, and the Stations of the Cross. These shrines are located in a beautiful floral garden area surrounding the Holy Ghost Church.


If you get a chance, whatever your religious beliefs or spirituality, the Dickeyville Grotto and many more grottoes across the Midwest are well worth your time. The ingenuity, commitment, and beauty are inspirational and will leave you wanting to know more, do more, and see more.




Photograph by Horace Perry courtesy Alabama State Council on the Arts.​

Next Week: the greatest list of must-watch outsider art documentaries ever.

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Published by marv

An artist/curator of outsider art and folk artwork, specializing in the marketing, buying and selling, promoting, educating, and storytelling of non-conforming artists.

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