Title of Work
Date of Work
35mm slide, digitized 2020
James Smith Pierce Collection: Folk and Outsider Image Collection
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.
Brother Joseph Zoettl, 1878-1961, traveled from his home country of Germany to America as a teenager, where he became a monk. At Saint Bernard Abbey, Brother Joseph worked at the powerhouse, doing very mindless work for long hours at a time. He was not allowed to be ordained as a priest, due to a disability that left him with a hunched back. To keep himself entertained, he began building grottoes made of rock around the religious statues on the property. The other monks noticed and began selling them. Brother Joseph then began making small scale models of religious structures, which he named “Little Jerusalem.” His superiors tasked him with replicating this work on an empty four acres on the estate to create the Ave Maria Grotto. The spectacular work of the Ave Maria Grotto can be seen in these images, which he made just by looking at pictures on postcards. Brother Joseph worked on the Grotto until he was 80 years old. In 1984, the Grotto was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Brother Joseph’s miniature versions of religious monuments, like the one shown here, were made from discarded materials like pipes, sea shells, plastic toys, costume jewelry, marbles, and tiles.
Image is provided for educational purposes only. © University of North Dakota. All rights reserved.
35mm slide in excellent condition.