Anyone taking a trip through the northern third of Kansas is probably taking Highway 36.
It's not as speedy and high-octane as I-70, on which I've never seen a speed limit enforced (at least, not once you get passed Topeka). And Route 36 certainly doesn't have the historical cachet of its venerable cousin Route 66.
In many ways, Highway 36 is just a utilitarian point-A-to-point-B strip of tarmac. But it still has it's fair share of interesting side excursions for those not too busy to get off the beaten path.
One of my favorites is the Paul Boyer Gallery in Belleville, Kansas.
According to the museum, Boyer began carving and working with small machines as a child in Michigan. But when he lost a leg during an accident at the age of 35, he threw himself into carving, drawing and sculpting to help occupy his time.
The result has been a life's work in animated sculptures, or cartoons brought into the kinetic art world. And though many so-called "art experts" would look down their noses and derisively call his work "folk art," in my humble opinion Boyer is one of the artistic treasures of Kansas.
Many of his sculpture do focus on the humorous. He has fashioned a style of big-nosed, saggy-breasted hillbilly characters to be the target of his mischievous sense of humor. That's on the surface. But what lies beneath is a dizzyingly complex set of clockworks that would give any steampunk fan squeals of delight.
And on what I consider his finest pieces, those complex mechanics become the art itself.
My personal favorite is a set of models of mechanical wings. I think the piece is titled (something like) "Flight of Man, Flight of Bird," and it wonderfully demonstrates the grace and subtlety of Boyer's artistic vision.
I've tried to capture it and a couple of my other favorites in this quick video, but my videographer skills pretty much suck. Anyway, you really must visit yourself to get the full effect. There is a minimal admission fee to the gallery, which is operated by Boyer's daughters and is open May through September, Wednesday through Saturday from 1-5 p.m.
tagged: Kansas, travel, Belleville, Paul Boyer, art, folk art, motion