Title of Work
John Ehn Old Trapper's Lodge 2
Date of Work
Super 8 film
Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Film Collection
Stored: JSP.FAST.FILM BOX 2
UND Art Collections Repository
Born in Brooklyn, New York, James Smith Pierce received his PhD in art history from Harvard University. During his career as a professor, Pierce also became an accomplished artist, whose artworks were included in important exhibitions (including a show on land art at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC) and books on contemporary earthworks and site-specific sculpture. Pierce was also a photographer, exhibition curator, and art collector.
About John Ehn:
Johan Henry “John” Ehn was born in Violet, a temporary lodging camp outside of Gould City, Michigan, in 1897. He married in 1921 and worked as a game warden for the Michigan Field and Game Department for several years before moving to Florida. Ehn worked as a trapper in Florida for five years and wrote a series of correspondence courses titled The Best Kept Secrets of Trapper John. In 1940, Ehn suffered from spinal inflammation and was forced to give up trapping. Ehn and his family then relocated to Roscoe, in southern California, where they opened a western themed hotel.
After seeing Claude Bell’s work at Knotts Berry Farm, a theme park in Buena Park, Ehn hired Bell to depict his a trapper in the form of a large sculpture on the property. After witnessing Bell work, Ehn began to construct his own sculptures around the motel. Ehn would construct a base armature from wire before covering them in concrete and painting them. His first works were a series of sculptures around the front of his motel recreating a mock pioneer graveyard called “Boothill Cemetery”. Tombstones contained an epitaph describing how each character supposedly died. Several tombstones contained busts of the deceased character, modeled after life masks that Ehn took of his family members. He also went on to create another series of sculptures he called the “Old West Museum” as well as various other works.
In 1981 Ehn passed away at the age of 84. In the same year the lodge was named a California Historical Landmark. In the mid 1980s several pieces were relocated to the grounds of Pierce in Woodland Hills where they are available for public viewing. An additional 70 art objects were conserved by the Kohler Foundation.
Digitally preserved 2021.
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