Maria Reidelbach (born July 23, 1956) is a Manhattan-based installation artist, curator and author who creates public art. In 1991, she wrote the definitive history of Mad, the bestselling Completely Mad: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine (Little, Brown), ranked by Library Journal as "essential for pop culture collections."
As an artist, she attempts an "interaction of art and life," bringing the people of New York City neighborhoods together in public art projects, sometimes involving found objects and retailer donations of materials, along with recycled items collected by dumpster diving through lower Manhattan.
Born in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Reidelbach spent much time in western Pennsylvania where her mother's family were farmers. In 1985, at New York's Guggenheim Museum, she organized an exhibition on the eccentric visionary painter Alfred Jensen. Garnering favorable reviews, her art exhibitions and gallery shows have often displayed unusual subjects (art revealing the subjectivity of science, editorial cartoons, architect-designed furniture, Victorian underwear).
Reidelbach worked with sculptor Milo Mottola to create the Totally Kid Carousel, an award-winning public artwork and amusement ride at Riverbank State Park (at 145th Street and Riverside Drive), facing the Hudson River. Displaying a menagerie of full-scale carousel figures designed in collaboration with neighborhood children, the carousel received the 1996 Award for Excellence in Design from the Art Commission of the City of New York.
In addition to several books on computers, she co-authored Miniature Golf (Abbeville Press, 1987), the only book ever bound in artificial turf, and in 2004, she teamed with the surreal artist Ken Brown to create Goofy Garden Golf, a decorative miniature golf course at Pier 2 (west of North Moore Street) in Manhattan's Hudson River Park. The Goofy Garden was planned as a tribute to Frieda Carter, who designed the first miniature golf course at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, in 1928.
Gnome on the Grange
Her 2006–07 project, Gnome on the Grange, combines a garden, botanical information, a ten-hole miniature golf and Gnome Chomsky, the world's tallest garden gnome (13 feet and six inches high), as acknowledged by Guinness World Records. Gnome on the Grange is located at Kelder's Farm (5575 Route 209), halfway between Accord and Kerhonkson, New York. The project is designed to celebrate local farming in a farming community. Her Homegrown Mini-Golf course opened at the farm in 2006.
Her bestselling Completely Mad: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine (Little, Brown) was a 1991 selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club. For that comprehensive study, she interviewed many cartoonists, and Bill Gaines, publisher of Mad and EC Comics, gave her total access to his magazine's internal correspondence and filing cabinets. Speaking at the memorial service for Gaines in the Time Warner building on June 5, 1992, she described her research:
- I knew Bill for only four years, but in that time I came to know him well. When I began to write the history of Mad, I had every intention of maintaining a professional distance, but I hadn't counted on the steamroller that was Bill's personality. When my mother became ill soon after I'd begun to work and I had to return to my hometown to care for her, Bill called regularly to see how she was and to see how I was. And his calls lifted the spirits of everyone in the house. My reserve developed a crack. Then I was invited to join the Mad trip, this one to Germany and Switzerland. A research goldmine for me; all the Madmen would be in one place. They would be a captive audience. During the trip Bill mostly stayed in his room, sitting in his underwear reading mystery novels. It was pretty hard to be professional while chatting with the hulking half-clad man boisterously laughing.
Publishers Weekly reviewed:
- Although basically celebratory and uncritical, art historian Reidelbach's detailed history of Mad mentions recent criticisms of sexist and homophobic material in the magazine as well as Mad's (and the comics industry's) contested policies on the ownership of commissioned artwork. Most amusing are descriptions of Gaines – who continues to run the profitable magazine as a 'benevolent dictatorship' – and his idiosyncratic management theories.
- Mad magazine
- Tribeca Trib: "Miniature Golf Course Makeover Starts with Dumpster Dive"
- Downtown Express "A little green and garbage to spruce up course"