Ave Maria Grotto, The Most Wonderful Religious Folk Art, in Cullman ALMonday, September 12, 2005
My interest in religious folk art started when I first visited the amazing works of Brother Joseph Zoettl in my hometown - I've probably been there thirty times or more. His works have been written about countless times; people come from all over the country - all over the world - to see his creations. There are other religious/visionary folk art displays that I'd *love* to see, like Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens, the Dickeyville Grotto, the Grotto of the Redemption, Holy Ghost Park, Salvation Mountain, Pasaquan, works of James Hampton at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Kenny Hill's work in Chauvin, LA, and soooo many more.
There are so many great folk art displays here in the South....I'll post pics of more places soon.
In super-wonderful news, I got an email last week from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art - my fav museum - in New Orleans that everything is okay; there really wasn't a flooding problem where they're located and they weren't broken into. Yay!
BTW, pics I've taken of Margaret's Grocery are here; pics of William C. Rice's Cross Garden are here; I'll post pics of Palestine Gardens soon.
Ave Maria Grotto is on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey (it's "ber-nerd", not "Ber-nard", like Bernard Parrish or the Saint Bernard dog) in Cullman, AL. All the pieces in the Grotto are the works of Brother Joseph Zoettl, a monk at the abbey, who had a hunchback due to an accident he had as a child. Luckily, this injury made it more comfortable for him to work on miniatures, which he started as a hobby. As the interest in his creations grew, the abbey dedicated space for him to be able to make and display even more of his works.
People would send him all kinds of things help build his models, and he used everything - marbles to dishes to shells and even toilet floats. A truly great folk artist.
Brother Zoettl died in 1961 after completing about 125 works.
It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to walk through the Grotto; the distance is actually pretty short, but there's so much to look at you'll want to stop and view everything. Admission is $5 for adults (if you have a AAA card, it's $4).
All of the pics from Ave Maria Grotto are in a set here on Flickr.