Boyer Museum—Mechanical carvings

Paul Boyer   |  1930-  |  Belleville, KS

Mechanical sculptures 

“It’s my birthday and I’ll drive if I want to…”  And so drove I did…although not that far from home. First stop (after a drive through the Flint Hills) was in Belleville, KS, the home of theBoyer Museum (formerly Boyer Gallery.)  Recently “saved” by Paul’s children, who were able to buy the gallery building to house their father’s collection, this museum is home to some pretty intricate and amusing mechanical sculptures. Here you find hillbillies that hammer, horses that kick, goats bumping heads, a calliope playing music, Indians dancing, woodpeckers helping a self-portrait of the artist carve a wooden head, and a chicken shooting baskets out of a rather unusual body part.

Paul Boyer was born in 1930, in Aurora, Kansas.  His interest in mechanics began as a 5 year old, when he watched his dad make propeller blades for a wind generator.  At the age of 35 in 1965, he was in a bad accident and lost a leg, then contracted Hepatitis C through a blood transfusion, and given 5 years to live.   He has defied the prognosis and although unable to return to work, he has spent the last 30+ years creating his mechanical sculptures, many of which have been the highlight of the North Central Kansas Free Fair for years.

Paul’s work show his wonderful sense of humor, without the aid of blueprints, (he says if he can see it in his head, he can build it in front of him.) Most of his body of work has been saved at the museum, including his oldest carving from 1942 and what he considers his masterpiece, the “Wind Calliope.”  Built out of cedar, it took Paul about a year to create, which plays 2 songs, “Chariots of Fire” and “Mockingbird Hill.”  

The displays at the museum are wonderful as well, with just the push of a button showing off the delicate hand-made mechanics that make these intricate tableaus operate. 

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