Monday, September 1, 2014

Dangers of Retirement - Cement Bears !

Allow me to introduce my friend Herman Rusch, seen here in self portrait.  We never met, although once or twice we came within a few hundred yards of doing so.  No, we are friends in the sense of having common experiences; common challenges.

Both hard working guys, Herman and I, and if it seems a bit unfair to compare his forty years of farming to my forty of college/med school/practice I can claim to having had to attend a lot more meetings and having done a lot more paper work.

I am thinking about retiring in a few years.  When Herman Rusch retired in 1952 he needed a hobby "To combat old-age boredom".  As I, and more urgently my wife, contemplate what I might do around the house if not working,the Herman Rusch experience is worth study.

Herman collected stuff.  Odd stuff.  Rocks, minerals, a washing machine powered by a goat on a treadmill, weird taxidermy items, that kind of stuff.  Eventually he had so much that he bought the Prairie Moon Dance Hall and converted it into his own private museum. That worked out for a while, but he noticed that the grounds outside the museum looked a little bare.  So with no formal artistic training he just started making things.  Statues, fences, planters....more odd stuff.

After twenty years of creating these folk art classics Herman decided he had done enough.  He sold off the collection and the Prairie Moon became a dog kennel.  I shudder to think of what happened to the whimsical sculptures when the dogs came by, sniffed curiously at the base, and then....

As it happens the site was acquired by the Kohler Foundation who had their work cut out for them in restoring the place to its former grandeur.  Much conservation of the sculptures was necessary. Maybe the bases needed extra attention.

There are on site several other smaller collections of similar work from the area.  Old guys needing something to do in retirement is not exactly a rare condition.  Here are a couple of views from the Fred Schlosstein collection.

I really like that moon faced Polar Bear!

Bears in fact turn up rather often here.  I wonder if they are intended by their creators as some sort of metaphor for the problem of post retirement idleness.  The master work on the site is called "Norwegian Hunter with Bear".  It is not done by Herman Rusch but by a Minnesota artist named Halvor Landsverk.  I thought at first it might be another portrait of Mr. Rusch but evidently it was created back in the 1930s.  Rusch certainly found something in it that resonated with him, enough to purchase and move this stunning piece.

The perils of post retirement boredom.  Maybe it is a question of whether you get the bear or the bear gets you?

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