It’s safe to say that Forevertron (last post) will be around for a long, long while with its 300 tons of iron and steel–who on earth would want to dismantle that? Likewise Fred Smith’s Concrete Park, the Dickeyville Grotto and the Wegner Grotto are not only built in concrete they all both protected sites (more on that later), now iconic parts of the Wisconsin landscape.
But as is the case with many outsider art sites, two I visited were less securely bound to this earth and sadly no longer exist.
One of these was Tony’s Fan Fair,
tucked quietly away in Anton Flatoff‘s yard in the town of Steven’s Point, Wisconsin. Tony started this project in the 70’s with one fan he rescued from the trash heap from the hotel where he worked. Gradually, over the next decade or two he added more and more discarded fans, around 80 in all. When we arrived at his home we were greeted by his lovely wife, Elaine, and middle-aged daughter, who informed us that Tony was home, but very ill, and we would sadly not be able to meet him. They encouraged us to poke around the yard, assuring us that Tony loved admirers.
Flying about the fantastic Fan Fair, were several of Tony’s airplanes:
“When you’re done with the Fan Fair, do come in”, Elaine urged us, and so we did. After showing off Tony’s indoor work (a flotilla of beer can ships and more planes), Elaine asked us shyly if we had any interest in HER hobby.
YES! OF COURSE!, so she led us to the back of the house and flung open the door to a room jam-packed with dolls.
Elaine explained that they were her “children”. By calling them her children, Elaine was clearly signifying that they were more than just a collection. Elaine had been one of 15 (!) children herself, and growing up she had always dreamed of having a doll. Her family was too poor to buy one for her. One day shortly after she and Tony were married elaine spotted a naked , dirty doll on the roadside which had been put out for the trash. She took it home, cleaned it up and sewed it an outfit. The next doll she bought at a yard sale with a spare quarter. And on it went. She showed us how she lovingly cared for them, , sewing clothing for each. And then, impishly, Elaine asked if we wanted to see her most special dolls, her “mixed up” dolls, she called them. You know we said yes! And up came the skirts of a few of the gals to reveal little male genitalia. “They came like that from the factory”, she marveled. Well, it made our day. I wonder, wonder, wonder what happened to all of Elaine’s dolls, and Tony’s oeuvre–all I see on the web when I look up Tony’s Fan Fair is “non-extant”. Sad!
The raucous yard art which both delighted and disgruntled Paul Hefti‘s neighbors in La Crosse has also disappeared. His property, once a beautiful example of the very human impulse to create has been restored to a state of ordinariness. Sigh. So I will treasure these images I have and share with you what got us to slam on our breaks as we were moseying through La Crosse on our way to visit Dobberstein Grotto (earlier post) in neighboring St Joseph.
Strewn across an expansive yard long was Mr. Hefti’s impressive collection of reclaimed and reformatted detritus from our plastic, disposable world.
Here’s a couple screech-on-the-brakes pictures:
Paul, who lived to be a hundred, worked for 45 years at the La Cross Paper and Box Company. According to his obituary he was a “gifted musician who played piano, accordion, drums, the zither and the mouth organ, [and ] was a leader of a one liter pop bottle band.” He rode a bicycle his whole life , which, like his yard, he decorated. He enjoyed the attention that his decorations brought him. I could easily feel his friendliness and warmth sprinkled throughout the site:
I doubt there was any non-perishable trash that Mr. Hefti couldn’t have found a use for.
Adieu, Paul Hefti, you funny, nice man!