Rhinestone Cowboy (Loy Bowlin)

Rhinestone Cowboy

In the late 1970s, Loy Bowlin in McComb, Mississippi, styled himself as the “Original Rhinestone Cowboy.” From his slate-blue 1967 Cadillac to his dentures, he adorned everything in his life with rhinestones and spangles, including the entire inside of his house, which he anointed the Beautiful Holy Jewel Home.

“He covered the walls with patterns of cut-out paper, paint, glitter, and collaged photographs and magazine illustrations,” Karen Patterson, associate curator of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, told Hyperallergic. “The result was a kaleidoscopic and dazzling home interior.”When Bowlin died in 1995, that sparkling home was sold and set to be demolished, until its purchase by Houston artist and collector Katy Emde. The house was completely taken apart and later acquired by the Kohler Foundation, and after four years of preservation gifted to the Kohler Arts Center along with many of Bowlin’s ostentatious hats, suits, and furniture. 

Loy Bowlin, the Rhinestone Cowboy who was inspired by the Glen Campbell song for his flashy style and persona, that same care will be devoted to his glitzy legacy. He was initially inspired to transform his life into one of glamor and light in a time of depression when those lyrics caught him: “But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me / Like a rhinestone cowboy.”

Part of his living room was exhibited in 2000, but this will illuminate all his self-taught sewing and collaging with the repeated patterns of his Mississippi palace, where the rhinestones were as meticulously patterned as a DIY Persian mosque. As Patterson said: “The arts center’s mission is to encourage and support innovative explorations in the arts, and that has translated into 50 years of saying, ‘this is worth looking at".