a lil catalog
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The Making of A Dream: Loy Bowlin

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Over 20 years have come and gone since the passing of Loy Bowlin and the subsequent removal of his bedazzled magnum opus, the Beautiful Holy Jewel Home, from its location just beyond city limits of McComb, Mississippi.


It’s in this small railroad town that he first embodied the persona and aesthetic of the “Original Rhinestone Cowboy.” Since that time, Bowlin’s creative legacy has largely been explored beyond Southern borders, with the Home ultimately arriving nearly 1,000 miles away from McComb at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin. In anticipation of the reinstallation of the Home for the 2017 exhibition, THE MAKING OF A DREAM, JMKAC invited me to respond to this extraordinary collection with original research to inform the exhibit’s curatorial process. Bowlin’s life and work was explored through a collaborative ethnohistory, aiming to put the sum of his work, story, and memory in the hands of local people.

View the webpage + resource archive for The Making of a Dream: Loy Bowlin + Jennifer Joy Jameson on the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

View the gallery handout for the exhibition.

Watch the presentation: Recalling Rhinestone: The Making of 'The Making of a Dream' (29:00 mark) NPS National Center for Preservation Technology & Training + Kohler Foundation's The Road Less Traveled Conference – John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI.

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“The glitter makes you stand out and look real good.”

Listen to four audio vignettes that weave together a number of new oral histories made with McComb citizens who knew and collaborated with the artist, along with archival and found recordings related to the life and work of Loy Bowlin. This work was gathered, along with previously unpublished archival and ephemeral materials sourced in partnership with friends of Bowlin, on an on-going basis from 2015-2016.


Rhinestone Man

from the Things issue of Southern Cultures (Vol. 23, No. 3, UNC Press)

An extension of the exhibition, the interview presented in this article focuses on one object, in particular: Loy Bowlin’s bejeweled dentures, which were a creative collaboration between a local dentist and the artist, ultimately becoming a central piece to Bowlin’s aesthetic and identity as the Original Rhinestone Cowboy. The interview examines the personal history and creative choices of an artist whose genre is often characterized by the idiosyncratic rather than the collaborative.

Read the story on Southern Cultures.

Download the print version from Project MUSE.

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Listen to a conversation about the Rhinestone Cowboy on KCHUNG's Both Kinds of Music show, Sept. 2017 (starting at 54:00)