Whimsical collection of concrete sculptures in an outdoor art environment
James Tellen worked in a Sheboygan furniture factory where he painted stripes and other details on the products. When not working, he studied art painting under local artisans and later worked with other media. During the depression, production slowdowns gave him time to pursue his artwork.
The family log cottage, south of town, became a place for him to pursue his artwork. During the winter, he would work on sculpting heads in the basement of his home, molding them in concrete. In better weather, he attached the heads to armatures to which he sculpted concrete bodies. He created 30 concrete sculptures on the property, some mythical, some spiritual and some historic.
Tellen died in 1957, leaving his legacy of 30 such sculptures at the family cottage. The Kohler Foundation acquired the sculpture garden in 1988 and in 2001, the collection was gifted to the John Michael Kohler Art Center. The Tellen environment is the first addition to the JMKAC collection that is off premises. The log cottage is sometimes open for special occasions.
The first of Tellen's sculptures was the log fence along Evergreen Road, the first thing you see when you go to visit the site. In the trompe-l'œil sculpture, you'll find a Native American family, a momma bear climbing a tree and her two cubs playing in a tree.
A sculpture of a young Abraham Lincoln, splitting a log, shows Tellen's incredible dedication to detail. It is reminiscent of Clarence Shaler's "Lincoln the Dreamer" sculpture on the campus of Ripon College. Tellen tried to depict everyday people, and the young Lincoln, splitting rails, is represented as an everyday neighbor rather than as the statesman we all remember.
The Tellen collection is open dawn to dusk daily.