Wisconsin may have more folk art environments than any other state. Some are elaborately embellished grottos; others are collections of sculptures arranged in open fields; still others started out as ordinary houses that became covered with stones, cement or found objects. One of the most fascinating of these constructions is Dr. Evermor's Forevertron.
There is something remarkable even about the location of the Forevertron. As seen from a distance, this unusual structure rises from central Wisconsin's fertile Sauk Prairie just below an ancient line of rugged hills known as the Baraboo Range. From a more immediate standpoint, it faces the old Badger Army Munitions Plant and shares ground with Delaney's Surplus, a disheveled but bustling outlet for obsolete equipment, unwanted appliances and salvage merchandise. Finally, the simple fact that its address falls within the obscure township of North Freedom, Wis., rounds out a physical as well as a metaphysical context that evokes such basic ideas as time and history, life and death, rebirth and liberation.
The maker of the Forevertron, 59-year old Tom Every, was himself reborn in the early 1980s. After nearly three decades of work as an industrial wrecker, Every began to question his role in the wholesale destruction of well-designed but commercially outmoded factories, buildings, mills, breweries and other large-scale manufacturing sites.
In 1983, he gave his demolition business to a son, renamed himself Dr. Evermor, and began to build what he called the Forevertron. His new identity and mission, which he admits was a "total figment" adopted by "a man under great duress," reprises the imagined saga of a Victorian inventor from Eggington, England -- Every's actual ancestral home. As a child, the fictive Dr. Evermore had been trapped in a massive electrical storm with his father, a Presbyterian minister, who explained to his son that such a force could come only directly from God. From that day on, the young man dedicated his life to constructing an extraordinary spacecraft that would ultimately deliver him from the "phoniness of this world" to the truth and unity of the next.
The present-day Forevertron is a monumental sculpture weighing roughly 300 tons and standing 120 feet wide, 60 feet deep and 50 feet high. It consists almost entirely of metals -- iron, brass and stainless steel are the most evident -- and it is both welded and bolted together to maximize stability. The overall arrangement is symmetrical with the principal central section anchored by a broad bank of generators, thrusters and other electromagnetic power sources. The whole structure is capped by a copper-strapped glass ball meant to serve as Dr. Evermor's space capsule.
At the north end, a great Celestial Telescope points toward the heavens ("in case there are any Doubting Thomases"), while the south arm concludes with a spiral staircase and a fancy, wrought-iron gazebo originally reserved for the Royal Family. Peripheral components include the ever-vigilant, blaze orange Celestial Listening Ear, the cage-like Graviton used to reduce Dr. Evermor's body weight on take-off day, and, just to the east, the urn-shaped Overlord Master Control with its constituent Love Guns aimed, according to their inventor, "at the butt of anyone who is not smiling by now." A first encounter with the Forevertron often brings to mind such worlds as Oz and the creations of Barnum, Jules Verne and, of course, Rube Goldberg.
The Forevertron also exemplifies Dr. Evermor's most distinctive and deliberate creative priority: "to blend history and art." Each part of the Forevertron preserves some facet of early technology or machine culture that is now rapidly disappearing, often b