Gary John Gresl: The Body Farm at Lynden

Gary John Gresl

In June of 2017, Gary John Gresl embarked on a multi-year residency, The Body Farm at Lynden, that considers ephemerality, mortality, and the lifespan of art objects. A longtime presence in Milwaukee’s art scene—as artist, educator and, most recently, originator of the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Awards—Gresl is laying the found objects that have made up his assemblage sculptures to rest on the grounds at Lynden in a “pseudo-forensic display.” Patterned on the Body Farm in Tennessee, where forensic scientists monitor the decomposition of human remains under different conditions, Gresl invites us to observe the decomposition of his life’s work.

“My 3 small plots of land on Lynden property,” observes Gresl, “with their assortments of objects assembled into larger site-specific sculptures, are intended to emphasize the brief nature of our lives and the folly of thinking we can overcome death by creating legacies. Even human cultures do not last forever.”

About the Artist

Gary John Gresl is a child of Wisconsin's rural and wild places. He is also an award-winning artist who founded the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2004, later receiving that honor himself. After teaching in public schools for five years, Gresl earned an MS from the Related Art Department, SFRCS, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has won the prestigious Mary Nohl Fellowship for Individual Artists. He has served as president of Wisconsin's oldest artist organization, Wisconsin Visual Artists, on four occasions, and remained on the board for more than three decades. He has acted as juror, lecturer, and author, and has helped regional artists become more visible and widely respected. While so engaged, he has wrestled with his personal art angels and demons creating uncommon assemblage sculptures. Large and constructed in complicated layers, the sculptures are imbued with meaning and metaphor. Gresl has been in hundreds of exhibits, including several Wisconsin Triennials, and he has won awards in many Wisconsin Artist Biennials, including the First-Place Award in 1999.

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