Hatteberg's People - Erika Nelson

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Erika Nelson of Lucas, Kansas would not agree with how some politicians see art. Erika believes art can change communities, uplift our spirit and take our minds to new heights.
Erika is unique and fascinating.

"I do what I do which is exploring the American road, looking for things that are odd, unusual and really reflective of place, because I'm fascinated with the stories behind them," said Nelson.

In her traveling exhibit, Erika hosts "The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things."

"I used to travel to the sites in my mobile museum, photograph the world's largest things, then create a model and place it in the passenger side window of the bus so that when the bus is not moving you can see the displays. You can also see them when it's moving, but it's a little harder at 70 miles per hour."

"So the displays end up getting put in the windows with little markers saying what they are and where they are from. For example, the world's largest penny from Woodruff, Wisconsin is a wonderful sweet story. It's about a lady who was also doing something impossible, building a hospital fro her rural community by gathering a million pennies in the 1950's."

And there is, of course, the humorous side of Erika, evident in her backyard.

"I already have a 'chair-e-tree' which is a tree full of chairs. There is usually a little bit of a pause for things to sink in and then there is a laugh. People who have grown up with puns get them immediately. People who don't usually have that sort of 'ahhhhhhh' effect to them."

And then there is the Art Car. With Dinosaurs on top and a roadway tar pit on the hood, it is a teaching tool.

"And it is an homage to the open road and many of the things that I love so dearly. Whenever I get to use it for school programs I can also talk about the fossil fuels that we're burning as we go down the road in the tar bed area. But then on the driver's side is a mural of these odd wonderful unique things that I'm looking for on the American road."

Erika is certainly non-traditional, but didn't start out that way.

"Part of that is finding your passion, doing it, and trusting your decisions, even if they are not mainstream positions and just following the path that has been laid out for you."

Then, there is the world's smallest mural on the side of her home.

"And it was created in celebration of Kansas' 150th birthday. The idea was to create an entire mural in one day."

But she didn't stop there, she painted another gigantic mural on the side of a downtown Lucas building depicting life in Post Rock country.

"So the mural was designed to be a narrative of the immigrant ancestors who quarried the rock and how the rock influenced the way this area was settled. I just like playing with the material, seeing what is supposed to do and then pushing it to what it is supposed to do but can do."

Erika is a "can-do" artist on her own road, in her own way. She is currently on her way to Philadelphia for an educational endeavor utilizing her Art Car. Last year she was on the Conan O'Brien show. Erika continues to follow her artistic path, where ever it may lead.

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