A portrait of Wisconsin folk artist Mary Nohl (1914-2001) and her sculptures.
As a child, “[w]hile the other girls [take] cooking classes,” Mary learns woodworking and makes an airplane. She helps her father build a house on Lake Michigan’s shore and realizes that she loves to create things with her hands. Collecting driftwood, feathers and rocks, Mary employs her building skills—mixing cement with beach sand, as her father showed her, and spreading it over a support of wood, wire and piping—to create a massive, playful-looking creature. The Küglers use watercolor, digital painting, collage and vintage papers to portray Mary’s world and sculptures. Some of the illustration has a stylized folk-art feel, blocky and angular in mild colors, while Mary’s dogs have rounder lines. Mary’s sculptures vary in scale, so the illustrations play with scale too. In one example, Mary and her dogs discover “a marvelous creature washed up on the sand.” The purple, wavy-limbed object looks enormous—until the following spread reveals it to be a small, beige piece of driftwood. That driftwood becomes an antler on Mary’s huge, sculpted creature. An author’s note explains Mary’s eccentricities—melting silverware, painting on indoor carpeting—and the controversy of her neighborhood’s refusal to allow public visitors into her garden of odd, fantastical creatures.
A friendly chronicle of an offbeat artist. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)