Ralph Lanning, a force to be reckoned with

“When I was 80, I had enough work to do for the next 10 years.  Now at 90, I have work lined up for 10 more years.  I don’t think God is going to take me before I finish.  I have work to do.”  

Ralph Lanning, Republic, MO sculptor.

Roadside Sculpture Park
Ralph Doss Lanning (1916-) 
7295 West Farm Rd 170 Republic, MO 65738

Yet another cold cold cold Midwest day in the 48 days of February. I just stopped by the home and sculpture park of Ralph and Gretchen Lanning, a 92-year old dynamic duo of creativity.  I hadn’t been by for a visit in a few years, and despite the chilly temperatures, this was the day to do so. 

By the looks of things, Ralph hasn’t slowed down a bit and has been quite busy repainting his sculptures, and working on more stone carvings, glass etchings, and yarn dolls.  Despite the cold weather, Ralph eagerly showed me around the park, pointing out his latest creations.   The difficulties with his eye-sore neighbor, Paul Jones Excavating, are sadly apparent as they have let their property go, providing a stark contrast with the  tidy acreage of the Lannings.
He showed me all of the articles and books that have written about his sculpture park (including Raw Visions, Rural Missouri, as well as Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations and Detour Art.) Also proudly on display in their front living room is the plaque awarded to him from the Folk Art Society of America, which amuses him, because other awards given that day included one given to “a woman that had a college education, and I only went through 8th grade!”  
Ralph is equally proud of this wife, Gretchen, and her rugs that she creates on a loom that her father had built many years ago.  Her intricately crocheted baptismal gowns are equally impressive.

It’s quickly apparent that the person most entertained by the Lanning Sculpture Park is Ralph Lanning. He is as humble as he is quick with a laugh as he shows visitors around his 8.5-acre concrete and stone sculpture garden, regaling them with stories. The garden is filled with mythical creatures, such as mermaids, gryphons, a two-headed dinosaur named Mik and Ike, and a nude Lady Godiva atop a horse (although Ralph claims she is wearing a body suit and tights). There is religious symbology and a touching tribute to a young man going to war. The inscription on the giant concrete heart reads: “If Heaven is half as beautiful as here on Earth, I don’t want to miss it.” Ralph may not consider himself an artist, but this gentle man’s garden speaks otherwise. 

To learn more about Ralph Lanning, please visit detour art: detour.webdatabases.net/artist_detail.ht ml?ArtistID=10028…