James Tellen's Woodland Sculpture Garden

James Tellen |  1880-1957  |  Black River, WI

Concrete environment  |  Created 1942-1957 


On our way to Milwaukee from Sheboygan, we had to stop by one of our favorite concrete gardens…the tour group was behind us, and the light was great!


For most of his life, James Tellen worked in a furniture factory, painting the fine decorative detailing. At age 62, as he recuperated in the hospital from an illness, he was inspired by concrete sculptures in the churchyard outside the window. Upon returning home, first he would sculpt heads in clay, create a mold, and then cast them in concrete.  Next, he would mount the heads on mesh armatures, completing the bodies with more concrete. From 1942 until his death, he created more than 30 figures in the woods surrounding his family’s summer cottage in Black River, Wisconsin. The religious, historic, and whimsical creatures were all arranged in the natural setting, creating an almost surrealistic, yet comforting environment. Today, the Kohler Foundation is restoring the wooded retreat.


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