Emery Blagdon


In 2004, Kohler Foundation acquired the primary collection of complex sculptures and paintings known as "Emery Blagdon’s Healing Machines." Between the years 1956 and 1986, self-taught Nebraska artist Emery Blagdon created a large and extraordinary body of sculpture and paintings that he called his "Healing Machines."

Blagdon believed that his deliberately and delicately constructed pieces, made from copper wire, foil, ribbon, beads, magnets, and other found items, in combination with small rhythmic or concentrically patterned paintings, generated an electromagnetic energy that could alleviate pain and prevent—perhaps even cure—disease. Blagdon arranged his machines and paintings in a manner that was to aid in the conduction of electromagnetic pulses in a shed he built on his farm in Nebraska. Intriguing as potential healing devices and captivating as art, the entire composition is at once challenging, alluring, and mysterious. Blagdon was 48 years old when he embarked on this project, never knowing the journey his creation would eventually take.

Few people visited Blagdon’s shed environment when it stood in Nebraska. Dan Dryden, who had personally known Blagdon, and Don Christensen, who caught his friend Dryden’s enthusiasm for the work, together acquired Blagdon’s entire oeuvre at public auction after the artist’s death. Over an 18-year period, the pair catalogued the collection, and sought a long-term solution for its preservation, exhibition, and ongoing care. Conservation is now complete, a process that took two full years. 

Since Blagdon’s death, the dismantled shed installation has rarely been seen—once in Lyon, France; once at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1999; and elsewhere in far smaller samplings.

Emery Blagdon's healing machines are now in the collection of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and were featured in the 2007 "Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds" show and book. The healing machines were again shown in 2012/13.