HORRIBLE CHILD MURDER– A LITTLE GIRL BEATEN TO DEATH
One of the most horrible cases of child-murder it has been our lot to record occurred on Sunday, on what is known as Waterloo Ridge, in Wisconsin. A little girl, ELLIE FIELD, was set upon by LIZZIE SICKLE, aged 15 or 16, for some cause unknown as yet, and beaten in a most brutal manner. When the child became unconscious, and was apparently dying, she became alarmed at her brutality and called in a neighboring woman. She said that the child had fallen from a chair by accident and had hurt its head. But it required only a glance at the mutilated body to show the falsity of this story. The body was one mass of bruised and broken flesh. The skull was broken, the forehead having been smashed in evidently by stamping it with a heeled shoe. The case justly creates great excitement in the neighborhood.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, NOVEMBER 18, 1867
The photographic works of sculptor and outdoorsman Jim Zimpel are homage, satire, and benefaction addressed to his north woods ancestral home; despite its surfeit of French names––Racine, La Crosse, and Eau Claire––Wisconsin is solidly Germanic. His affection for pop culture, oral history, and urban legend have led this peculiar artist (he will eat only meat that he has himself killed) on an illustrator’s mission, embellishing and inventing, casting himself as a contemporary Hogarth, a fuguist of the Wisconsin death trip.
In The Woodworker, 2009, above, Zimpel shows us a view best kept secret, the hidden basement lair of a one-eyed recluse. Through the unswept sawdust multiple electrical cords snake down the stairs though only one power tool is visible; where are, and more importantly, what are the others? The white-bearded man is caught in a shaft of revealing light, not surprised but perturbed, as if his important work can only be accomplished in darkness. On the drill press rests a wooden totem of a human heart.
In a state enamored of ice fishing and drunken driving (per capita, Wisconsin produces twice the alcohol-related fatalities of California) the Badgers have always swung from their polarities of frolic and gaiety; water shows and amateur pilot fly-ins, to melancholy, madness and murder; Gein, Dahmer, et al. It is the forest spirit that possesses them and Zimpel has captured that furtive manitou, and it is jealous.
The Getaway, 2009, above, demonstrates just such an instance of influence. In the intermittent illumination of a garage at night a third and final figure climbs into a pickup truck. The subject of this mysterious allegory, a youthful bearded man, sits in the bed of the truck, wearing a down-filled jacket and carrying an axe over his shoulder. He is as motionless as a Hummel figurine but the expression on the face of the woman in the cabin reveals a dire concern. These are Zim’s Fairytales, as fatalistic as their Teutonic model and the axe shown on the first page must be used on the last.
The last wild bear in Germany was hunted and killed in 1835. Like the forest the bear is a beloved symbol of Germany––it is on the seal of its capital city, Berlin. When, in 2006, another wild bear was found to be raiding hen houses in Bavaria he was shot dead. "This animal didn't just kill when he was hungry. He had a lust for killing," Anton Steixner, an official from South Tirol, said, "It's not that we don't welcome bears in Bavaria. It's just that this one wasn't behaving properly."
Max King Cap