Maria Reidelbach: Biography
Maria Reidelbach is an artist and author whose work embraces the intersection of folk and pop culture and whose projects are a unique hybrid of intelligence and humor. In 2006 Maria created the popular and award-winning Homegrown Mini-Golf on Kelder's Farm in Accord, New York, a roadside attraction that doubles as a teaching tool, and which is landscaped entirely in edible plants, flowers, herbs and trees. Part of the project is the World's Largest Garden Gnome, known as Chomsky, for which she received a Guinness World Record in 2007. Her latest endeavor, intended to link Rondout Valley communities, is Valley of the Giants, a series of oversized public sculptures and statues that honor the history, natural resources and agricultural abundance of these New York towns. The next local giant slated to be built is the Rosendale Cement Miner, a tribute to the forgotten laborers who helped build the town. Plans for future giants continue to expand upon Maria's philosophy of local empowerment through storytelling and building community through folk narrative. Maria's publications include the bestselling Completely MAD: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine and Miniature Golf. (Photo above, Maria on site at Homegrown Mini-Golf.)
Hailing from a military family, Maria was conceived in Germany, born in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and lived in three states before spending her school years in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania where her maternal grandparents had once farmed. She received a BFA in Painting from the University of Akron, graduating magna cum laude in 1981. (Photo left: Maria with the Goodyear blimp, an early encounter with a giant.)
After interning at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, she was hired as a preparator and coodinator of donor activities, spending half her time in work boots and the other half in a cocktail dress.
In the 1980s Maria became a private art registrar and developed some of the first software used for cataloging fine art. As personal computers become more common, the demand for her cataloging software led her to create a business developing custom applications for artists, estates, art historians and collectors; her clients included Eric Fischl, the Alexander Calder Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Alexander Archipenko Foundation and others through the 1990s. She also curated and co-curated several art exhibitions in New York City, including Alfred Jensen: Paintings and Works on Paper at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1985 and exhibitions at Barbara Toll Fine Art and Max Protetch Gallery.
In 1987, pursuing an abiding interest in roadside Americana, Maria co-authored Miniature Golf, a social history of the game (Abbeville Press, 1987, with Nina Garfinkel and John Margolies). Her next book, Completely MAD: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine (Little, Brown, 1991), chronicled another quirky pop-cultural back-alley, and was a best seller.
In the 1990s Maria realized that rather than merely writing about popular culture and helping to organize other people's art, she needed to create original work. Among her first projects toward that goal were The Totally Kid Carousel (Project Manager for artist Milo Mottola), Goofy Garden Golf (in collaboration with artist Ken Brown) and the Needlepoint Museum. Feeling a need to help her neighborhood to recover from the damages of 9/11, in 2002 she joined the staff of Manhattan Youth Recreation and Resources, becoming the Lower Manhattan community group's first art director and helping to launch the Downtown Community Center, the first to serve Tribeca and Battery Park City. In 2009 Maria migrated to the Hudson Valley, becoming a full-time resident.
Maria's commitment to community and public advocacy has propelled her to serve several nonprofit organizations, including the Rondout Valley Growers Association (Vice-President), Re>Think Local: the Hudson Valley Business Alliance for a Local Living Economy (founding Board member), the New York Mycological Society (President from 2007 to 2012) and Options for the Future (volunteer and Board member, 1980s). She is Artist in Residence at Kelder's Farm, a 200-year-old family farm, advising in marketing and publicity strategies. Her umbrella company, Corn Cow, is a founding B Corporation, a new type of financial entity that meets rigorous and independent standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Corporations work together to create a new sector of the economy which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.