Paul Hefti, Yard Show
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 60102, United States
begun circa 1985
About the Artist/Site
Paul Hefti’s yard show, in slightly run down neighborhood, was an abrupt field of color and motion. Radiating out into the yard from his modest, Italianate red brick house where Hefti was born, the garden was a panorama of twirling tableaux, individual sculptures, and things hanging from trees and fences, all made primarily out of green and clear plastic soda pop bottles and other discarded objects: dolls, stuffed toys, advertising ephemera, and more plastic bottles. Plastic bottles were strung together in various arrangements, most painted with simple designs or smiling or frowning faces in splashes of red, white and blue. Bottles were sliced up and made into odd creatures, quizzical faces, flowers, sunbursts, birdhouses, and other objects that spun erratically in any passing breeze.
Paul Hefti’s biography is as spare as his garden was elaborate. He worked for 45 years at the La Crosse Paper and Box Company and retired in 1981. He began ornamenting his yard in about 1985. Hefti gathered bottles and objects for his garden on daily bicycle trips around La Crosse. Encouraged by visitors, he kept adding to his showplace, thus seducing more visitors, and bringing welcome company to a man who led a relatively solitary life.
Surprisingly elegant and mostly kinetic, his works filled a long narrow yard roughly the length of two residential lots. The tableaux weren’t interconnected but their arrangement created a path of sorts. He delighted in showing guests through the garden, and his tour consisted of a structured ramble punctuated by well-rehearsed stories about his creations along the way, climaxing in predictable punch lines delivered with deadpan gravity and a wink.
The garden was a showplace for Hefti’s pride in the seasonal rhythms of the Midwest. Several alterable tableaux featured plastic bottles sporting individual letters strung out to spell regional vernacular phrases like ‘June is Dairy Month’ or ‘U R Our Good Farmers’, and seasonal holidays such as the ‘4th of July.’ The daily date was displayed by his clever ‘dater’ bottle calendar. The red brick house is backdrop to most of these tableaux, linking Hefti’s pride in the rhythms of life to his home. One could perceive and enjoy Hefti’s yard variously: direct delight in the formal qualities of color, motion, sound; a miracle of recycling; ever-blooming garden, and evidence of the timelessness of play.
In about 2003 Hefti was moved to a rest home and in 2004 family members had the house and environment demolished.
dolls, stuffed toys, plastic bottles, recycled materials
Map & Site Information
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 60102 us
Latitude/Longitude: 43.8137751 / -91.2519017
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