Richard Saholt's collages: his channel for rage


"The Massive Attack: World War II" contains 36 separate 9" x 12" laminated collages

Richard Saholt (1924-2014) from Minneapolis, MN, channeled his rage into creating art, explains Michael Bonesteel, curator of "Mad as Hell" at Intuit: Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, 756 N. Milwaukee Ave., through Jan. 3. 2016. 


Topic: World War II

"He related to trauma and situations where people were victimized. He became obsessed with any violent, dramatic or melodramatic situation in the world because he could relate to it," said Bonesteel. 

His anger toward the Veterans Administration (VA) and his father, coupled along with the voices he heard as a schizophrenic made it difficult for Saholt to function. "In 1964, when Saholt was having difficulty discussing war experiences, someone suggested he sketch out what he was feeling. 


Topic: The Pope

“Richard threw himself into creating daring montages," explained author and journalist Peter Schilling Jr. in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The results were innumerable collages of which Bonesteel was given 30 by the artist. Those pieces are the majority of the 50 plus items, including his some what delicate pair of scissors and his military dog tags, at Intuit. 

Bonesteel has divided the work in the show into personal psyche rage against his father, war and celebrities. 


Topic: Actress Natalie Wood

Piece after piece shows the results of Saholt's use of his mother's sewing scissors, to painstakingly cut out images from thousands of sources. He spent many hours "in a process...over the course of weeks, to create an ordered chaos that draws the viewer into his anguish,” wrote Schilling. 

For 10 to 15 years, starting in the 1990s, Saholt achieved some fame for creating large-format collages that combined lurid commercial illustrations with powerful words and phrases appropriated from printed magazine and newspaper headlines.

"You can feel emotional differences between the different pieces," said one viewer to Bonesteel as we were standing surrounded by the work. "He conveyed his emotions through the style of his collages. You can feel the emotion of the nightmare." 


Topic: John Wayne Gacy, mass murderer

"Even John Wayne Gacy on some level, he [Saholt] probably felt was a product of his parents or his environment," said Bonesteel, further illustrating some of Saholt's reasoning. 

Saholt's background 
"Saholt had stuttered horribly since his boyhood, and would later insist that he’d been abused by his mortician father. When Saholt enlisted in the Army in 1942, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic, but that was kept from him until 1969," Schilling said. 

 A member of the U.S. Army’s Tenth Mountain Ski Troop Division, Saholt was not only honorably discharged but honored with the Bronze Star. With his schizophrenia exacerbated, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), blackouts stemming from concussions, and back and leg injuries, he received no disability pay from the Veterans Administration, according to Bonesteel. "He fought for decades to obtain 30 years of back pay. In 1974, they paid him for three years back pay and began giving him a small stipend. That did not stop him from continuing to fight for the other 27 years of back pay." 

Richard met Doris when attempting to overcome his stuttering by taking singing lessons, says Schilling. Despite the difficulty of holding a job and his mental illness, their 50+-year romance continued until her death in 2011. “Every problem he had, he just kept trying and trying to address it. When things went badly, he didn’t succumb to it. He looked for an alternative," said Schilling. 

In 2001, Saholt told the Star Tribune, “I can make people see and understand things they never could before. So in a way, my mental illness has been a gift. Without it, I wouldn’t have amounted to a row of beans.” 

He passed in January 2014, succumbing to basil cell carcinoma. 


Michael Bonesteel amid Saholt's work

Show Curator
"Mad as Hell" Curator Bonesteel describes himself as a recovering art critic, art historian and School of the Art Institute of Chicago teacher. In addition to writing about Saholt, he wrote a book about Henry Darger, a famous outside artist. 

"I like edgy troubling disturbing work. It fascinates me," he said, standing amid Saholt's pieces which can certainly be described as troubling and disturbing. 

"Mad as Hell" is an interesting show. The details in the pieces are amazing. The way he put them together is mesmerizing. It makes you think, "this next piece will help me understand the story." And so you continue...looking.



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