Local author Barbara Feller explores the life, art and influence of a stalwart of the area’s early 20th century cultural community. “Road to Waubeek: Discovering Jay G. Sigmund” introduces readers to an avid and fairly successful writer whose life and work were important to many artists who knew him, including Grant Wood and Paul Engle.
Blending interviews with Sigmund’s descendants and contemporaries with extensive research in area archives and beyond, Feller establishes Sigmund as a man whose success in the insurance business did nothing to dampen his passion for artistic expression — his own and others.
The book is marred by a variety of small errors — a numbering mistake in the endnotes causes some confusion, the date of publication for a book of Sigmund’s poetry is mentioned three times in two pages, and quotations often exactly mirror the text that appears before them. There are a few larger issues as well, including Feller’s decision to put off truly describing Sigmund and his life until well into the second third of the book. The structure could use an overhaul.
That said, however, Feller’s book contributes to our understanding of local history and positions Sigmund as a man of renown in his own time whose influence helped secure the lasting renown of other artists.
“Road to Waubeek” is a road of discovery. It may meander in ways both scenic and confusing, but it’s destination is well worth the trip.