A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.





Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nowata, Oklahoma


Bowling Ball Yard Art

When it came time to see this one, I just didn't know what to expect.  It was way out in the nowhereland of eastern Oklahoma.  Driving down a long dirt road I eventually came to Chris Barbee's home, pulled into the driveway, parked off onto the grass and just sat there...looking.  Okay, by now you probably know I get easily overwhelmed at times.  I just sat there trying to make sense of what would cause a person to do this.  It looked like no one was home.  Finally with camera in hand I got out and began taking pictures. 



Remember, these are bowling balls so added features are of a much larger size than they would be normally.

At this point I have worked my way to the back of what appears to be his home where this small building stood inviting you to step inside.  Incidentally, there are 385 bowling balls making up that pyramid to the left and bowling pins make up the roof, all 140 of them cut in half.

Inside sort of pushed me over the edge or into the gutter you could say.

I left a note in his sign-in book and thought about making my exit before anyone else came by.  Just as I was about to get back in the Little House on the Highway here comes a dust covered ratty little car up the road and it is the artist himself, Chris.  Here is a photo of him from a newspaper article in his bowling ball house.

He was the nicest guy.  He worked in the oil industry then the last ten years at a printing business in town. The rural property belonged to his parents and when they died he decided to move there for his retirement years.  He and his wife bought a large mobile home and had it installed on the land.  His wife had 14 bowling balls that she fixed up and put among her roses for decoration.  When she died he figured there was no need to continue to make payments on such a large home for one person and had it removed then converted the storage shed on the property into his home.

He felt he should do something with the 14 bowling balls of his wife's and thought about making a fence with them. He figured if he collected some more balls it would take 2 or 3 years to build the fence he had in mind.  In May of 2006 he started collecting bowling balls from thrift shops and the like and it soon evolved into art objects.  He estimates he has well over 2000 balls most of which are from donations.  He knows pretty much where every ball came from and has a few collectibles in the bowling ball house. 

To the right of the house you can see the door for the storm cellar.  The cellar leaks and water collects inside which he'd have to pump out onto the grass.  He later realized the waste of water that was so now has collecting tanks in the cellar.  He pumps the water up to cans, pots, bathtubs, sinks and toilets that set on top of the storm cellar all containing his vegetable garden.

I could figure out what every art piece was except this one.  Can you?  He told me without my asking.

By this point I was nearly a month in our search for the weird, unusual and bizarre.  For those sites of a personal nature, something created by one individual, it seemed my first reaction upon seeing it was usually  "What is this person thinking?"  Yet I always came away with a deep appreciation for their passion with their art whether I liked it or not.  From the well executed Carhenge in Nebraska, to the goofy conglomeration of Hubble's Rubble, and the down right scary political statement pieces of M.T. Ligget (who I made a point of not meeting) in Mullinville, Kansas they were all to be respected.  Thank goodness we have people like this out there to make our world just a little bit more interesting.  Above as Chris put it is "the world's largest rosary".  Raise your hand if you knew.


14 comments:

  1. O my God, I can't believe what you found here. All those balls, the one "artwork" after the other. I am speechless.

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  2. well no, I wasn't at all akin to the rosary beads a.k.a. bowling balls. My first reaction seeing your photos was that they bought a smile to my face, well it was really a laughing smile. It kind of amazed me that someone would put their mind to conjuring up 'art' like this, with hoardes of bowling balls to decorate their property! To each his own, all harmless fun. You certainly had a mission this journey John!

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  3. Well that really is some new kind of crazy! But I have to say I like the spider!

    Your Painting Buntings are pretty bright and I dont even get to see them in zoos!

    Stewart M - Australia

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  4. yup, knew the rosary. :)

    i really liked this. the pool table, the crochet set, the christmas tree were brilliant. the flag is my favorite of all.

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  5. I would have guessed even more than 2000 balls looking at all these. Nice job on covering it. You've got to admit the man is creative.

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  6. Got the rosary right away. I like this guy!

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  7. Wow... that's just... wow. Bowling balls literally from A to Z. I don't know that I would have guessed rosary beads, heathen that I am, but the cross made me thing of a memorial of sorts. That is some pretty wild art. I like it.

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  8. Hand raised here. These are very creative. I love the peace sign.

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  9. I'm fond of eccentric people with their own vision. He's a practical guy with a creative streak. And seems to have lots of skills. I wouldn't have the first notion of how to build a water catchment and pumping system. Thanks for showing us someplace we likely won't visit on our own.

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  10. I like that flag... Fella misses his wife...
    But hey, I counted the balls -- 13 rows of 21 = 273
    and if you multiply 16 lbs per ball
    that adds up to 4368 lbs total.
    (((That lower support pipe appears to be feeling the strain)))

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  11. What an interesting story John!
    I like his creativity and the fact that he didn't throw away his wife's bawling balls. :)

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  12. Wow! I love the fence. How fun to meet the artist and hear his story and understand his thinking. That's the thing, everyone has a story. I've often wished that I could have a blog called "Everyone Has A Story" that featured everyday people just sharing their story. And, no, I didn't know it was a rosary. Now I see it.

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  13. Jings! You pass quite a few things like this. You must have a books worth on your hands if you can find a publisher.
    I wonder if we'd be the same on this side of the pond if we had bigger yards.

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