Ralph Wilson, popularly known by his nom d’artiste, “Mr. Shrine,” is an American folk artist noted for his quirky shrines to admired subjects surrounded by found objects that are both fun and symbolic.
Mr. Shrine’s art shrines are intended to honor a person or a thing – like a pet – that is loved, and should mark a place to dream, hope, plan, and meditate. Wilson created kits with the materials to build your own shrine, and sold the kits to museums across the country. Wilson’s shrines have what he called “a special magic” because they came from the heart. Each one is intended to make connections between the hearts of the maker and the beholder. Each shrine is unique, made with one-of-kind trinkets, keepsakes, iconic figures, and other found objects.
Mr. Shrine’s works of art are not all serious, though. They can be humorous, tongue-in-cheek, representative, and a bit outlandish. “God has a sense of humor, too,” he claimed.
Born in San Diego, Wilson grew up in the Catholic faith, serving as an altar boy at St. Mary’s, and attending St. Augustine High School. He was originally inspired by the Bisbee, Arizona, roadside shrine, where he would frequently stop to light a candle as part of frequent roadtrips. That shrine inspired him to start assembling small shrines as inspirational art.
Wilson traveled the country doing art fairs, selling assembled shrines, shrine kits, and his iconic RVs, which he said stood for “religious vehicles.” His art is easily recognizable for the combination of beads, glass aquarium stones, plastic animals and figures, cartoon characters, charms, pieces of ribbon and fabric flowers, and copious application of both paint and glitter.
In 2006, Wilson moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Shop the galleries for Mr. Shrine original folk art.
“A Shrine for All Seasons – “Mr. Shrine” creates Our Lady of the Springs, and an ode to mothers”, Jennifer Jackson, Lovely County Citizen, May 8 2014