In Mary's Garden by Tina & Carson Kügler tells part of the life story of Wisconsin folk artist Mary Nohl, who passed away in 2001 at the age of 87. Readers will appreciate the story of a young woman pursuing a life of travel and art. At a time when most women were marrying and starting families, Mary chose to dedicate herself to creating found object sculptures and paintings, turning her family home on the shores of Lake Michigan into a work of art, inside and out.
The Küglers do a fine job of making Mary's life relatable to kids, including two of her many beloved dogs, Sassafras and Basil, as characters in the story. The dogs lead Mary to discoveries on the beach and seem to weigh in on the state of her creations. Their illustrations are wonderful and have a collage feel to them, using vintage papers, digital painting and watercolors, which fits perfectly with Nohl's personality and artistic style. They also do a fine job conveying the size and bulk of Nohl's sculptures in their illustrations, including a two-page spread that requires an 180 degree turn to enjoy the giant sculpture. They also capture the spirit of Nohl's sculptures, sometimes taking the edge of those that might seem frightening.
The final page of In Mary's Garden is dedicated to a biography of the artist. Mary graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and taught and traveled, crossing the ocean twelve times in twelve years. In the 1960s when Mary's elderly parents passed away, they left the house in Fox Point to her along with an inheritance that allowed her to live comfortably and devote herself entirely to her creations, which sometimes seemed eccentric and included melting down the family silverware and painting the carpet to cover crumbs and make for less vacuuming. The more Mary created, the more people wanted to see her work and it seems that her neighbors in this affluent neighborhood grew increasingly unhappy with the traffic created by the attention she was getting.
After her death, a foundation took over the museum that is her home but were unable to secure the zoning rights to turn it into an actual museum. Efforts are being made to move the home and sculptures to a location in Sheboygan that is accessible to everyone who wants to see her work.
Source: Review Copy