Dunn exhibition to feature miniature cathedrals

Mundelein resident Charles Warner created works of art to remember his childhood in Poland

Mundelein resident Charles Warner’s (1884–1964) hand-carved folk art cathedrals, created in remembrance of his childhood in Poland.

LIBERTYVILLE – “Color and Light: Charles Warner’s Miniature Cathedrals” is running through Jan. 8 at the Bess Bower Dunn Museum in Libertyville.

The special exhibition features Mundelein resident Charles Warner’s handcarved folk-art cathedrals, created in remembrance of his childhood in Poland. Each of Warner’s five intricate models captured his impressions of the architecture and vibrant colors of the Old World. Warner lived from 1884 to 1964.

“Museum visitors are able to view the cathedrals for the first time and take a virtual look inside at the meticulously decorated interiors, filled with color and light,” Director of Education Nan Buckardt said in a news release. “Warner’s work is stunning. His models are considered folk art since the artist had no formal training in the arts.”

In 1908, Warner immigrated to the U.S. from Prussia. He was 13 and taught himself to read and write English. By 1920, he was living in Mundelein and working as a carpenter for American Steel and Wire in North Chicago.

After his retirement, Warner began woodworking as a hobby in his garage. Initially, he made birdhouses, which he often joked were so elaborate that he should “charge rent.” In 1955, he began handcarving wooden cathedrals with a jackknife and jigsaw, using templates of his own design. The cathedrals each took one year to complete. Warner died in 1964 and his daughter, Lucille Warner, donated the cathedral models to the Dunn Museum.

“The colorful and complex handcarved creations served as a link between the traditions of the Old World and the hopes and dreams of the New World,” Buckardt said. “They were also made in remembrance of his childhood and to teach his children about their heritage.”

Special exhibitions at the Dunn Museum sometimes are traveling exhibits presented by national touring companies. Other times, they are the result of the skill, expertise and hard work of the Dunn Museum staff, which is the case with “Color and Light: Charles Warner’s Miniature Cathedrals.”

“Staff-curated exhibitions like this one allow us to really delve into what makes Lake County and its residents so special,” Buckardt said.

The Dunn Museum has a large collection of items and archival materials that represent many diverse aspects of Lake County’s history. However, only a small percentage of the collection can be on display at one time.

“When Dunn Museum staff members curate an exhibition, it enables us to show more of the collection and connect visitors to our collective history,” Buckardt said.

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