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.
James Tellen (1880-1957) created over 30 historic, religious, and mythic figures over his lifetime. These sculptures surrounded his family’s summer cottage in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. These figures are both life-sized and miniature and created a surreal relationship with their natural surroundings. Tellen was born in the town of Houghton, Michigan and was adopted at a young age, when he moved to Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It was here where he attended a religious school and developed his strong Catholic beliefs. In his spare time, Tellen developed an interest in oil painting, which later led to woodcarving. At the age of 62, Tellen was hospitalized while recovering from illness and gained inspiration from statues in a nearby churchyard. From there, he began to teach himself how to work with concrete and make realistic figures.
Known for his perfectionism with anatomy, Tellen would bury his early attempts that he did not approve of rather than destroy them. In 1957, Tellen passed away and left behind his forest of mythical figures. The Kohler Foundation then took the environment over in 2000 and restored the art pieces to their outstanding condition they are in today.
This piece portrays many realistic figures standing around a table, as they stood in 1976. This signifies Tellen’s passion for religion and his love for the human anatomy.
Image is provided for educational purposes only. © University of North Dakota. All rights reserved.
35 mm slide in excellent condition.