Emery Blagdon and His Healing Machine
Air Date: 08/18/2013
In an unpainted shed near Stapleton, Nebraska in the late 1950’s Emery Blagdon began twisting old wire and foil, threading hundreds of beads, and shaping everyday castoff materials toward one purpose – to generate natural energy to heal. Spurred on personal tragedy, Blagdon’s obsession to create a “Healing Machine” was life-long as he believed people could be cured by his artful chandeliers, cascades of wire, and geometric paintings all of which he deemed gave off healing power.
In 1975, North Platte pharmacist Dan Dryden was intrigued when a man with unkempt hair, a long beard, and overalls walked into his store and asked for “elements.” Dryden befriended Blagdon and invited himself out to see Blagdon’s creations. As Dryden entered the old shed he was astonished; it was like nothing he had seen before. Through their friendship, Dryden found inspiration to pursue his own true life’s dream as an sound engineer and moved away from Nebraska.
Eleven years later, on a return trip to Nebraska from New York City, Dryden learned Blagdon had died. He also learned Blagdon’s farmstead and the “Healing Machine” were up for auction. To keep the machine from being separated or destroyed, Dryden and high school classmate Don Christensen purchased the “Healing Machine.” They cataloged it and showed it nationally and internationally, while storing the bulk of the collection for 18 years.
In 2004, Dryden and Christensen approached the Kohler Foundation in Sheboygan, Wisconsin which specializes in conserving what is often referred to as self-taught or visionary art. Soon after the visit the foundation purchased Blagdon’s “Healing Machine” and began using modern museum conservation techniques to preserve the masterpiece.
Emery Blagdon’s Healing Machine is now part of the Kohler Art Centers’ permanent collection. Emery Blagdon is known by art collectors and museum visitors as a man with boundless visionary creativity: an artist of great significance.
The project also includes a series of Signature Stories, as well as Blagdon’s personal home movies, family photos and additional video content found on this web site.
We tell the story through interviews with a family member, a longtime friend, the man who is responsible for saving Blagdon’s work and experts who deal in vernacular or self-taught art environments.
- Connie Paxton, great niece of Emery Blagdon, Lincoln, NE
- Roger Neth, longtime friend, North Platte, NE
- Dan Dryden, Sound Engineer, The Philip Glass Ensemble
- Leslie Umberger, Curator of Folk and Self-taught Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Senior Curator, The John Michael Kohler Arts Center (1998-2012)
- Terri Yoho, Director Kohler Foundation, Inc., Sheboygan, WI
- Shari Cavin, Co-owner and Director, Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York, NY
- Sally and Richard Greenhill, Photographers, Greenhill Photo Library, London, Engalnd
- Special thanks to: Carl & Janet Eskridge, Nan Schweiger & Lamont Richards, and The Jerry Johnston Memorial Fund
The half-hour Emery Bladgon and His Healing Machine television documentary is a production of Nebraska Public Media.
Questions or comments about the "Emery Bladgon and His Healing Machine" project? E-mail Producer Kelly Rush.
The auction bill from Emery's estate sale, 1986. Click here to see a close up.
Click Here to see images of Emery's personal photos he took with his own camera and other photos of his family and work.
Learn more about Sally and Richard Greenhill, photographers who spent an afternoon with Emery in 1979.