First published: Fall 2018
Norbert Kox gave a preview of his new museum, which showcases his "apocalyptic visual parables"
“If you’re travelin’ in the north country fair” (apologies to Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan), you might consider dropping by Norbert Kox’s new Apocalypse House and Museum of Visionary Art located in the small Midwestern town of Gillett, just north of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Kox recently purchased an early-twentieth-century building that was once the village hospital then stood empty for many years. He is in the process of converting the two-storey structure into a museum, studio and living space. A grand opening was held at the end of June, 2018.
Norbert Kox on his famous “Demon Hunter” Harley Davidson, which he welded together and painted in the mid 1970s. His painting, Betrayed: Yesu Christ at the Hands of His Adversaries (1988–90), hangs behind him. Photo: Fred Scruton
Upon entering the spacious downstairs lobby of the Apocalypse House and Museum, one encounters a long, meandering central hallway that leads into a maze of gallery rooms. They wind along the left side to the rear of the building, continue across the back, and then move up along the right side of the first floor area. The galleries were created by subdividing the expansive first floor into separate-but-interconnected rooms of various sizes and dimensions. Some can be accessed from a central hallway, while others cannot. The gallery room walls are eight feet tall, stopping short of reaching the full 11 feet to the ceiling, effectively lending each room an intimacy but also providing light and ventilation.
Nine areas are sectioned off according to subject matter. Signs inscribed on wooden plaques hang over the doorways to each gallery to indicate what lies beyond. The first gallery is titled “Babylon”, followed by “Light and Dark”, “Good and Evil”, “The Gift”, “Legion”, “Blood Offering” and “Divine Intervention”, in addition to two specialised spaces called “Innocents” and "Demon Hunter”.
Norbert Kox is a prominent figure among a significant subgroup of visionary artists specialising in apocalyptic themes, including contemporaries such as William Thomas Thompson and Frank Bruno. Past masters include McKendree Robbins Long, Gertrude Morgan, James Hampton, William Blayney, Myrtice West and, most famously, Howard Finster. All of these artists created work in response to the New Testament’s Book of Revelations, attributed to John of Patmos who foresaw the end of the world, Armageddon, Christ’s second coming, a 1000-year reign of peace, Satan’s final rebellion, God’s last judgement of Satan, and the establishment of new heavens and a new earth.
During a recent visit to the museum, I asked Kox to elaborate on his relationship to The Bible:
“I believe that The Bible is the word of God, but there are so many different translations”, explained Kox. “Even with all the mistranslations, no matter how The Bible gets butchered, if someone is really seeking God, God will help that person find the way. If one’s heart is right and one is looking for the truth, that person will find it.”