Kohler Foundation + SPACES Archives Transfer Update

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Jen Balge

Posts by Jen Balge 4 Items

jen.balge@gmail.com

The Sculpture Park and Garden of Veijo Rönkkönen

Posted in Gardens

 

veijo-1Used with the permission of the photographer, Minna Haveri

Nestled in remote Eastern Finland in Parikkala, near the Russian border, is a delight that spans history and culture. As you make your way down the driveway, you are greeted by figures flanking the road, an array of statues that have been likened to the cover of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” record, a frozen carnival that flourishes in the greenery of summer and stands tall in the cold, Finnish winters. Like many outdoor sculptures constructed in cold, seasonal climates, these are largely painted concrete, occasionally decked with embellishments. Painting the concrete helps to protect it from the elements. 

 

 

veijo-driveway-1Used with the permission of the photographer, Minna Haveri

Veijo Rönkkönen (1944- 2010) was 16 years old when he began a job as a press worker in a paper mill in Parikkala, a job he held for 41 years. With his first pay check, he purchased ten apple tree seedlings and a bag of concrete—the beginnings of an extensive sculpture park and garden he would build around his family home. He was known to be guarded in his younger years as he began his sculptural endeavor. After he completed his first statue in 1961 and the years wore on, his reputation as a hermit persisted even as his reserve dropped away to reveal and warm and humorous personality. This friendly demeanor is reflected in most, if not all, of his statues. As visual and performance artist and art critic Erkki Pirtola noted in Itse Tehty Elamam “Each figure has the same supernatural smile, enhanced by real false teeth, which also make the smile all the more biting.” This smile is seen in the parade of children led by a proud drummer boy, in the choir of Greek youths, and in the figures that inhabit the garden, reflecting archetypes of ethnic characteristics and exotic cultures. 

 

In a move right out of Dorian Grey, Rönkkönen is perhaps known best for what he calls his “monument for the memory of is young body.” In the park of nearly 500 works, 255 are self-portrait-like characters in different yoga positions— each on the quest for unity and correct form. Some now gather moss in an act of ultimate meditation and dedication amidst torturing asanas. Far from Nek Chand’s yoga-familiar Rock Garden of Chandigarh in India, this ode from a self-taught yogi in Finland is surprising and unexpected. Considered to be the spiritual center of Rönkkönen’s endeavor, it certainly is a stunning climax. 

 

veijo-yoga-1Used with the permission of the photographer, Minna Haveri

 

On the occasions when he had been asked to show his work beyond the park, Veijo Rönkkönen always insisted to ask the statues first; however, they apparently never wanted to travel. The plan he shared before his death was to bury the park in sand and leave it in silence for one thousand years, like the terra-cotta armies of China. After he passed in 2010, his family, in an unusually amiable and constructive move, realized the importance of securing and saving the park’s work and future. Rather than covering it all in sand, the park was purchased by Finnish businessman and art lover Reijo Uusitalo in collaboration with Finland’s ITE Art Association, and is being protected and preserved for future generations.

 

 See more here: Veijo Rönkkönen

Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden Undergoes Restoration

Posted in Gardens, Preservation News, Self-Taught Arts in the News

 

 

Gabriel Albert’s garden in Nantillé  (Charente-Maritime), after 25 years of being largely unoccupied, has experienced a swell of visitors since the recent launch of a regional restoration project. It had been unoccupied, that is, with the exception of over 400 resident statues!  

 

free-entry-manThis statue, recently cleaned, greets visitors at the entrance of the garden.

As a youngster, Gabriel Albert dreamt of becoming a sculptor, but became a carpenter to earn a regular livelihood. It was not until he retired in 1969 at age 65 that he was finally able to give way to his passion.

Albert began making figurative sculptures and busts, applying cement to iron frame infrastructures. Most of the 420 sculptures he eventually created, which he placed in the garden surrounding his hand-built house, represented anonymous people going about everyday tasks. However, some depicted political personalities, celebrities, and characters from fairy tales, which he based on photographs he saw in magazines.

 

1Concrete is porous, which makes it an ideal place for moss and lichen to grow. Conservators often use biocide to combat this common ailment of art environments.

 

nantille

 

Around 1989 Albert became ill and decided to reserve his energy to maintain the site rather than to create new works. Before his death, he sold all of his work for a symbolic amount to the community of Nantillé. In spring 2011, an association of friends actively promoted protected status for the garden, so that it could be opened for visits by the general public. Now, in 2017, preservationists, using brushes and other small tools, are carefully scraping lichen and moss from the sculptures in the first phase of conservation. Sculptures with more extensive damage have been fitted with frames to protect their fragile limbs until the conservationists can explore options and decide on long term solutions to strengthen the concrete forms. As of this writing, fifty-nine figures have been taken to an offsite workshop for conservation. 

 

biocide-half-n-halfHalf of the statue has undergone biocide treatment, which shows the effectiveness of removing microorganisms that have nestled in the concrete.

 

The timeline for this project is November 2017 to June 2018. The most urgent task was to pack, transport and shelter those fifty-nine statues at risk, but emergency measures will also include filling cracks in the statues and the restoration of Gabriel Albert’s studio. The first stage of restoration, estimated to cost 252,602€, is 100% financed by the Region of New Aquitaine under the scientific and technical control of the Regional Conservation of Historical Monuments (Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs [DRAC] New Aquitaine - Ministry of Culture). They have done a truly fantastic job of documenting the history of the site and will surely continue the good work through conservation. 

 

4Splints, polyurethane foam, and plastic film help keep damaged limbs in check.

 

supported bustsAfter supporting the ground beneath and creating a protective structure, these busts that were formerly leaning are safe.

 

Learn more about the Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden on SPACES here

 

All images: © Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine, General Inventory of Cultural Heritage. Christian Rome, 2017. 

Kohler Foundation + SPACES Archives Transfer Update

Posted in SPACES News

 

books-for-kfi-spaces-updateMany of the archive materials are only available in person - the archive boasts many books, publications, and other resources about sites around the world.

 

Kohler Foundation archivist Ann Gappmayer has been hard at work, plugging away to inventory and rehouse recently received documents and other SPACES archival materials so that they will be easily searchable. The SPACES archive, currently located in a secure warehouse in Sheboygan, Wis, is now open for researchers by appointment. While the SPACES website is growing and becoming more robust every day, thanks to our legions of supporters, many of the resources included within the archive, like library books and journals, are only available in person. Ann shared that one of the goals is to add all the books in the archive to WorldCAT, the world’s largest library catalog, so that researchers and interested parties can discover the assets in the archive more easily.  

 

fullsizeoutputa5-g43Ann double checks all files to remove staples and paperclips, which can rust. She then transfers everything into archival folders.

 

Ann has been delving into the vast amount of materials that lie within the “Art” Harold Beal collection. Art Beal created Nit Witt Ridge in Cambria Pines, California and SPACES Founder Seymour Rosen and includes an incredible depth of resources: extensive letters, photographs, and even Beal’s birth certificate.

 

manila archiveThe effects of newsprint and other non-archival materials are seen here in this manila folder.nat-geoVolume 122, Number 4 Issue of National Geographic from October 1962 that features an article with the Watts Towers.

SPACES Archives welcomes new Social Media and Communications Coordinator

Posted in SPACES News
spark-paintings-imageJen Balge leads a SPARK! Group at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center

SPACES Archives is pleased to announce the hiring of Jen Balge as our New Media and Communications Coordinator. Jen is taking over from Jennifer Joy Jameson, who has transitioned to the Alliance for California Traditional Arts as Programs and Media Director. She will focus on SPACES’ ongoing mission and goals as we continue to work to engage those familiar with our work as well as attract new audiences. 

 

Jen has worked at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center as Education Specialist since 2013, planning public programs and education components around works featured in their exhibitions and collections, many of which include art environments. With access to the JMKAC collection as well as SPACES’ physical archives – as it continues to transfer to the Kohler Foundation, Inc. – she is looking forward to exploring a range of topics to broaden our reach and impact. Among her short-term goals are to feature contemporary artists whose work has been influenced by art environments and to offer resources for educators. She also hopes to continue to build partnerships with other academic and general organizations who work in this field.

 

Jen holds degrees in art and education from Cardinal Stritch University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), and strives to use points of universal accessibility of artist-built environments to engage people of all ages and abilities. In addition to her position at JMKAC, she serves as the museum representative on the Wisconsin Art Education Association board and is currently president-elect for the Dementia Care Network of Sheboygan County.

 

Be sure to follow SPACES Archives on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our latest happenings. You can reach Jen with any new media and communications inquiries, suggestions, or comments at communications@spacesarchives.org. 

 

Browse Blog Archives by Month
Highlights

Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden Undergoes Restoration
Gardens, Preservation News, Self-Taught Arts in the News

Act Now: Save The Last Resort - A Working Model of Sustainability in Marin County, CA
Take Action, Threatened Environments

Conservator-in-Residence Position, Hartman Rock Garden - Ohio
Preservation News

SPACES Honors Watts Towers Committee Founding Member Jeanne Smith Morgan on her 90th Birthday!
Preservation News, SPACES News

Remembering Josep Pujiula i Vila (1937-2016)
Self-Taught Arts in the News

Dispatch from the Field: Jo Farb Hernández in Spain
SPACES News

Materializing the Bible. by James S. Bielo (Miami University)
Gardens, Religious, Devotional & Spiritual

Call to Action: Preserve Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village in California
Threatened Environments

Mr. Imagination exhibit at Intuit named one of 10 best in the United States
Self-Taught Arts in the News

SPACES Director to Present Singular Spaces at Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum
SPACES News

The SPACES website allows you to save your favorite art environments and share them with your friends or colleagues. Create your own portfolio of your favorites from environments in the online collection.

Send them to your friends, post them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tag #spacesarchives 

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces