Richard Saholt Collection
Scope and Contents
The Richard Saholt Collection contains materials created by and about Richard Saholt, including correspondence, medical and military files, artwork reproductions, audiovisual materials, print and slide photography, a collaged artist’s book, a scrapbook, and press materials related to Saholt's life and work. The collection was donated by Michael Bonesteel, a scholar and art historian, with whom Saholt began communication with in the 1990s. Following Saholt’s death in 2014, Bonesteel inherited additional documents, correspondence, photography, videos, and books. The materials exemplify Saholt’s artistic process, revealing the traumatic biographical events and motivations that informed the imagery in his work. The collection may be of interest to researchers studying self-taught art, outsider art, artists working with mental illnesses, artist veterans, collage, artists’ books, military history, and Minneapolis-based artists. The materials within the collection date from 1922 to 2011.
The collection contains a significant amount of correspondence from Saholt to Michael Bonesteel from the mid-1990s through 2005. The correspondence comprises handwritten letters, facsimiles, annotated collage reproductions, and acknowledgments of artwork donations from Saholt to Bonesteel. These letters describe Saholt’s desire to exhibit and publish his work and mention his interest in Bonesteel's scholarship on outsider art. While correspondence is primarily from Saholt to Michael Bonesteel, the collection does not contain Bonesteel’s responses. Additional original handwritten letters and facsimiles document Saholt’s ongoing legal battles with the Veterans Affairs Office requesting service-connected disability compensation. Correspondence relating to veterans affairs claims are housed within the same folder but pertain to various appeals made between 1945 and 2012. Correspondence and press packets from Saholt to journalists and publishers show additional intent to exhibit and publish his work. This folder contains both acceptance and rejection responses from writers and publishers. A small portion of the correspondence is letters from Saholt to family members including an endearing letter to his wife Doris. Additional correspondence encompasses psychological evaluations; records relating to his military history; annotated and collaged court hearings and testimonies; biographical material, medical, and military documentation on Torfen Saholt, Richard Saholt’s father. Medical documentation and psychological evaluations are restricted. Photographic materials are undated and consist of personal family pictures and portraits of Saholt (from childhood through adult years), photography of exhibition installations and receptions, and reproductions of his collages in both print and 35mm slide format. Saholt’s collage works are reproduced as color prints on paper, occasionally embellished with annotations and handwriting. Three VHS video cassettes, housed in collaged covers, feature interviews with the artist giving insight into his childhood and artistic process. Saholt inscribed, altered, and collaged three books in the collection. A copy of The Wall: Images and Offerings from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is altered using collaged newspaper and magazine clippings to highlight the horrors of war and its traumatic effect on veterans. Saholt inscribed the interior cover of Principles of General Psychology, which depicts and discusses a collage created while under psychiatric care. The scrapbook combines visual and textual collages layered with family pictures, exhibition photography, and portraits of the artist. Press materials include newspapers, magazines, and exhibition catalogs related to Saholt’s artwork and exhibitions published between 1985 and 2001. Additional newspaper clippings chronicle Saholt’s publicized legal battles with the Veterans Affairs Office. A small collection of ephemera includes business and personal membership cards.
- 1922 - 2014
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Medical documents are restricted.
Conditions Governing Use
The Richard Saholt collection is owned by the American Folk Art Museum. The collection is subject to all copyright laws, and is dedicated to public use for research, study and scholarship.
Biographical / Historical
Richard “Dick” Louis Saholt was born on February 22, 1924, in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Torfen F. and Josemone R. Saholt. Saholt experienced a traumatic childhood, marked by physical and emotional abuse from his father, Torfen. As a child, Saholt suffered undiagnosed learning disabilities and a speech impediment. He was described as a gentle, sensitive, and shy child.
In December of 1942, at the age of 17, Saholt enlisted in the U.S. Army to get away from his bad home life. Saholt served as a sniper, scout, and point man in the Ski Paratroopers of the 10th Mountain Division. The 10th Mountain Division fought and defeated German forces during World War II in the Italian Alps between 1944 and 1945. On November 5, 1945, the military discharged Saholt with back and leg injuries. The military awarded him a Good Conduct Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and a Bronze Star. Saholt returned from combat with physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), visual disturbances, depression, and blackouts. His childhood speech impediment also returned. To overcome his stutter, he enrolled in singing lessons where he met his future wife Doris Marie Johnson. The couple married in 1952.
Following the war, Saholt’s physical and psychological ailments continued to grow, impairing his ability to complete training programs or hold a job for more than a few months. For 29 years, Saholt repeatedly appealed to the Veterans Administration (VA) for service-connected disability. During an early appeal in 1964, the head of the Minneapolis Veterans of Foreign Wars office encouraged Saholt to create collages to visualize what he struggled to explain through words. Saholt began to document his experience using war mementos, words, and phrases clipped from newspapers. These collages helped him to articulate the psychological traumas caused by the war.
The VA continued to discredit his claims. It denied the impact of the war on his disability and blamed his childhood for his psychological ailments. In 1969, Saholt’s attorney drew medical files out of the VA, revealing Saholt had been diagnosed with “chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia,” a diagnosis kept hidden from him. In 1974, a representative from the Disabled American Veterans organization, used the unearthed file to appeal his case which finally awarded him service-connected disability.
Saholt continued to create collages and expanded the size of his work to large-scale montages constructed using photographs and clippings from journals, magazines, and newspapers. By the mid-1990s, Saholt built an impressive body of work encompassing hundreds of collages. He began to share his work in group exhibitions and publications. In 2001, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore included his work in a group exhibition. Additionally, he was featured in solo exhibitions at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2005 and the Intuit: Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art in 2016.
Saholt passed away at the age of 89 on January 12, 2014. Today, Saholt’s work is included in several museum collections, including the American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY; Inuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, IL; National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago, IL; and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, St. Paul, MN.
Sources: Aronson, Virginia. “A Dream Come Alive: The Collages of Richard Saholt,” Raw Vision, Summer 1994: 44-47.
Saholt, Richard, subject. “The Life and Art of Richard Saholt,” Vimeo, uploaded by Living Spirit, March 2018. https://vimeo.com/259394425
Wolfe, Chante. “A Soldier’s Heart: Then and Now,” Twin Cities Daily Planet, July 23, 2006. https://www.tcdailyplanet.net/soldiers-heart-then-and-now/
2.625 linear feet (3 standard-size legal size document cases 1 oversize flat case)
Language of Materials
The Richard Saholt Collection contains materials created by and about Richard Saholt (1924–2014), a Minneapolis based collage artist. The collection comprises correspondence, medical and military files, artwork reproductions, audiovisual materials, print and slide photography, a collaged artist’s book, a scrapbook, and press materials related to Saholt's life and work. The collection was donated by Michael Bonesteel after he gifted collages accessioned into the American Folk Art Museum’s artwork collection. The materials exemplify Saholt’s artistic process, revealing traumatic biographical events and motivations that informed the imagery in his work. The collection may be of interest to researchers studying self-taught art, outsider art, artists working with mental illnesses, artist veterans, collage, artists’ books, military history, and Minneapolis-based artists. The materials within the collection range from 1922 to 2011.
The collection is arranged by type of materials and then alphabetically by subject. Box 1 contains textual materials including correspondence, exhibition catalogs, brochures, and press clippings. The folders are arranged alphabetically by subject and the files are arranged chronologically within each folder. Box 2 consists of graphic materials: printed collage reproductions, artwork and exhibition photography, family and personal photographs, slides, and business/membership cards. Box 3 houses three VHS cassettes in collaged covers and an annotated copy of the Principles of General Psychology. Box 4 contains oversized artwork print reproductions, a collaged artist book, and a scrapbook.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
The three VHS video cassettes in the collection require a VCR and monitor to view.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated by Michael Bonesteel in 2021.
The 35mm slides were removed from their original slide carousels and moved to polypropylene sleeves in their original order. Print photography was placed into PAT-approved sleeves and separated by type (exhibition photography, artwork, family photos). Paper clips were removed from correspondence, but not from the scrapbook as they are structurally and artistically part of the work. Packages and grouped letters are kept together within folders separated from other materials with acid-free interleaving paper. The VHS cassettes and their collaged covers are housed inside custom phase boxes.
- A Guide to the Richard Saholt Collection
- Aimee Lusty
- May 2021
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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