Remembering Laurent Danchin (1946-2017)

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Salvation Mountain Update

Posted in Just Added, Take Action, Threatened Environments

Most who know the story of how Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain came to be or have visited the Dr. Seussian spectacle rising triumphantly out of the monochromatic Sonoran Desert landscape realize the fragility of this incredible monument to God’s love as understood by Knight (1931 – 2014). After falling down several years into its making, Knight adjusted his technique and began packing handmade adobe into the side of an existing cliff face, then applying coats upon coats of technicolor paint as a strikingly beautiful layer of protection.

svm2Photo: Annalise Taylor. December 26, 2016.

The Mountain is incredibly vulnerable to the elements, and deserts like the Sonoran present some of the harshest conditions on the planet – a dehydrated and utterly unprotected landscape. Considering the intentions behind Knight’s creation – that it exist almost as a beckoning mirage, attracting its seekers and mere passersby alike – to cut off visitor access in order to protect the integrity of the structure would be counterintuitive to its most basic function. Not to mention, any attempt to provide significant protection for the structure from both visitors and the desert conditions would be a prohibitively expensive endeavor. Thus, Salvation Mountain will continue to exist as it has for the past 30 years – open to all who visit and susceptible to whatever may come its way.

However, the Mountain does not stand alone but rather with a team of dedicated and passionate protectors who continue the never-ending process of fixing what fails. The reality of the open-air site is that without constant care, it will degrade over time. Salvation Mountain’s board of directors, Salvation Mountain, Inc., has employed a site docent, Ella Hare, as well as a caretaker, Ron, to explain Knight’s story of love and dedication, be vigilant when visitors are present, and make necessary repairs.

svm3Photo: Annalise Taylor. December 26, 2016.

During my last visit on December 26, 2016, I had a lengthy conversation with Ron about the current plans for the Mountain. The area had experienced significant rainfall over the previous two weeks, so the Mountain and the Museum were off limits to visitors until the area was completely dry. It was heartening to see a wealth of visitors complying with the signage directing them to observe from a distance rather than walking on the Mountain or the Sea of Galilee. The site continues to attract visitors though it has been several years since Knight was present to act as the Mountain’s very charismatic host and guide; Ron said he encountered hundreds of people over the Christmas holiday.

 Ron enthusiastically explained his plans to continue making significant conservation efforts to the Mountain; however, there is no intention to stray whatsoever from the appearance of the site as it was when Knight was present. He and a team of volunteers are working to reinforce the delicate hay bale and car window roof of the Museum with more bales and additional packed adobe and paint. Additionally, the downward slope to the left of the center of the mountain has been packed with an adobe base layer so that the red tree with branching beatitudes like “faith,” “love,” and “meekness” can be recreated. It’s clear that Ron, who is a relatively new caretaker, feels very dedicated to the immense task ahead of him and hopes do his work in the spirit of Knight.   

svm4Photo: Annalise Taylor. December 26, 2016.

Salvation Mountain is currently listed by SPACES as “threatened,” and I believe this to be true. While repairs are made when sections of the mountain disintegrate, largescale damage due to a natural disaster, which could conceivably strike at any moment, would probably prove unmanageable. However, as long as the members of Salvation Mountain, Inc. and its team remain dedicated to their labor of love – maintaining and protecting the site – I believe Salvation Mountain will continue to thrive, and most importantly, reflect the original spirit of its humble creator, Leonard Knight.

~Annalise Taylor

Laura Pope Forrester Home + Art Environment on the Market

Posted in Gardens, Threatened Environments

 

A guest post by Ginger Cook of Deep Fried Kudzu, originally seen here.

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I was contacted a few months ago by a UGA faculty member for permission to use some of my photographs of the Laura Pope Forrester home in Ochlocknee, Georgia (which I granted) in paperwork to add it as a “Places in Peril” with the National Trust of Historic Preservation.


An entry for Laura Pope Forrester (they spell her surname differently, as it most often appears ‘Laura Pope Forester’) appears in the New Georgia Encyclopedia for her work as a self-taught artist in Ochlocknee who “created one of the state’s first outdoor art environments during the 1940s and 1950s. Her concrete figures, depicting such historical and literary personages as Nancy Hart and Scarlett O’Hara, came to be known as “Mrs. Pope’s Museum.”“

The AP reported on the site in 1961:
One of the most unique museums in the nation, containing more than 200 statues hand-carved by a Mitchell County woman…

Mrs. Forester’s inventiveness was almost as incredible as her talent.  Besides using scrap iron from junkyards, discarded tin cans and other waste material as braces for her statues, she painted the figures with liquids of many flowers and brightly colored berries…

…The sculptress, who created her first statue in 1900, died in 1953, at the Pope mansion in which she was born.  The museum is sponsored by a civic club and the Chamber of Commerce.

Two hundred life-size statues…plus she painted, including painting directly on her home.  In the early ’80s, the owner of the house reportedly had the statues destroyed in fewer than 48 hours.  A witness to what was left later records: “I remember going out behind the house and seeing just piles of faces and hands and such…”  

The author of ‘A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude’ includes a quote from the owner who arranged for the destruction as saying, “They had done passed their days of bein’ useful. So we’ve taken down just about all of ‘em.”

The author writes:
Based on the evidence that remains, this is one of the worst pieces of unconscious vandalism that one has ever heard of. How could the museums and historical societies and university art departments and collectors of the state of Georgia — or just local citizens with eyes in their heads — have allowed this destruction to take place?
—-


The home’s been on the market for a few months, and the price has been lowered to $153k. The photographs on the realtor.com listing don’t show the artwork out front, and doesn’t make any notation about it. Hopes are to have the site preserved, as some of the previous owners destroyed statuary. 

Hamtramck Disneyland sold to local art collective!

Posted in Threatened Environments

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Hamtramck — It looks like Hamtramck Disneyland in the Detroit enclave is here to stay.

The future of the eclectic collection of yard folk art created by Ukrainian immigrant Dmytro Szylak appeared grim after his death last May. But a Hamtramck art gallery collective called Hatch Art has purchased the property.

“It’s a done deal,” said Jan Dijkers, the realtor who represented Hatch Art in the sale, Friday. “It was sold today.”

She said the property, which covers two adjoining houses on Klinger, was on the market since March 3, 2016, and it was purchased for $100,000.

“We really had no idea what would happen to (the property) if we didn’t buy it and that’s why we fought so hard to make sure it stayed in the hands of an organization that is art-focused and is part of the community,” Dijkers said.

She said the art collective plans to restore and preserve Szylak’s sculptures and renovate the two houses on the property. The houses have four flats in them and three of them will be rented out to defray the costs of restoring and maintaining the sculptures, she said. The fourth flat will be used as an artist-in-residence space, she said.

Restoration work is expected to begin immediately, Dijkers said.

“The sooner they can get them renovated, the sooner they can start generating some cash flow,” she said.

Szylak, a retired General Motors employee, started assembling his masterpiece in the backyard of his small two-story house on Klinger more than 20 years ago.

Szylak lived in the home for more than 50 years with his wife and daughters. His wife died in 2008 at the age of 83 and his relationship with his daughters deteriorated after her death.

After Syzlak died at age 92, his estate became tied up in probate court and the fate of his collection of colorful pieces was unclear.

The collection includes a Ferris wheel that sits atop of the garage, mirrors and hand-crafted airplanes and miniature animals. A large colorful gate welcomes guests with the face of Mickey Mouse looming in the distance. Rockets and a merry-go-round horse are among the pieces in the backyard; framed photos of tigers, elephants and sunflowers cover the rustic walls of the garage door.

Every Labor Day weekend during the Hamtramck festival, Szylak would put out signs to encourage guests to take photos outside of his home.

~Reposted from The Detroit News, May 6, 2016

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

Posted in Threatened Environments

 

The late “Grandma” Tressa Prisbrey’s Bottle Village, situated in Simi Valley, just north of Los Angeles, California, is one of the boldest and most dynamic art environments ever made by a woman. The incredible, 15-building site is under threat from the elements this winter. Back in 1979, local people formed the non-profit Preserve Bottle Village to acquire and restore the property, which was later damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. 

 

miscrb31314367145889lTressa Prisbrey at the Bottle Village ca. 1981. Photo by Roger Brown.

This winter, Preserve Bottle Village is raising funds via GoFundMe to protect the site from further deterioration due to winter rains, as part of an ongoing overall preservation campaign. Read their call below:

Help protect Simi Valley folk art environment, Bottle Village from winter storm damage.Please support the efforts of Preserve Bottle Village, a non-profit organization made up of a small group of volunteers dedicated to the preservation and conservation of this irreplaceable example of American Folk Art. 

 

One of only a few folk art environments created by a woman, Bottle Village hums with creator Tressa “Grandma” Prisbrey’s unique sense of humor and perspective. “Anyone can do something with a million dollars. Look at Disney,” Prisbrey once said. “But it takes more than money to make something out of nothing, and look at the fun I have doing it.” The self-taught artist started building in 1956, at the age of 60, and worked until 1981. Prisbrey constructed the site’s 15 buildings and many site features using found materials, including tens of thousands of multicolored bottles set in cement mortar. Colorful walkways of broken tiles and crockery wind through the one-third acre site. 

 

Preserve Bottle Village is working on long term restoration plans with ARG Conservation Services, the San Francisco firm that restored Los Angeles’s Watts Towers. In the short term, each of Bottle Village’s structures must be temporarily protected with tarps, plastic sheeting and wooden braces until actual stabilization work may begin. The heavy rains and strong winds of projected El Nino storms add urgency to this work. Your generous donation will help Preserve Bottle Village to safeguard the magical world and rare vision of Grandma Prisbrey for future generations.

Be sure to donate today via their GoFundMe campaign page to help preserve and conserve this special site in Southern California. The effort is led, in part, by Tanya Ward Goodman, the daughter of Tinktertown’s Ross Ward. 

rbprisbreybottlevillage00114232636865lThe Bottle Village. Photo by Roger Brown, ca. 1981.

Finally, head over to Folkstreams to watch Allie Light and Irving Saraf’s excellent 1982 short film on Grandma Prisbrey,  Grandma’s Bottle Village: The Art of Tressa Prisbrey to catch wind of Prisbrey’s wonderful wit, humor, and strength.

 

screen-shot-2015-12-26-at-54023-pmClick on image to take you to the film on Folkstreams.org

 

 

 

 

Jean-Michel Chesné’s Garden and Grotto under threat from road realignment!

Posted in Preservation News, Threatened Environments
chesneThe site in 2012.

Jean-Michel Chesné’s site in Malakoff, France, which includes an innovative chapel and grotto, whimsical ceramic and shell mosaic work, and creative freestanding sculptures, are in danger of being demolished due to the city’s new urban plans. SPACES is helping Chesné try to convince the Malakoff officials to consider other options for their urban renewal that will not destroy this important site as collateral damage. If you would like to add your name to a list of supporters, please contact SPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández: jfh@cruzio.com. For further information, please contact Hernández or SPACES Board member Laurent Danchin.

A petition has been started to save this site, please sign and show your support!  

Margaret’s Grocery listed as one of Mississippi’s Historic Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Properties!

Posted in Preservation News, Threatened Environments
8619919350396aa27713zMargaret's Grocery in 2013. Photo by Kelly Ludwig.

October brought important news for the preservation of Southern vernacular art environments. On the heels of the nearly-finished Kohler Foundation conservation of St. EOM’s Pasaquan in Buena Vista Georgia, as well as the selection of its first Director, we now turn our attention toward Mississippi. 

On Thursday, October 22nd, the Mississippi Heritage Trust announced Reverend H.D. Dennis’ Margaret’s Grocery in Vicksburg, Mississippi on of 2015’s “10 Most Endangered Properties.” Since the deaths of Mrs. and Mr. Dennis’ in 2009 and 2011, respectively, the roadside market on historic Highway 61 adorned with bright colors and evangelical messages has swiftly decayed at an alarming rate. 

Now that the site is listed as a “10 Most” property, the real preservation advocacy begins. At SPACES, we will make sure to organize and share all public updates on preservation efforts surrounding Margaret’s Grocery, both on the civic and state level, and on the grassroots fundraising level.

For a quick review on recent preservation movement surrounding the site, watch Jennifer Joy Jameson’s 2015 presentation at the NPS-NCPTT’s Divine Disorder conference on the preservation of folk and “outsider” art.

 

Conservation of Chomo’s Village d’art Préludien Begins in France

Posted in Preservation News, Threatened Environments

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Roberta Trapani reporting from France:

The week of July 13, 2015 saw the first stage in the efforts to preserve and restore the late artist Roger Chomeaux (or Chomo)’s Refuge, one of the most important buildings in his Village d’art Préludien, but the one that has suffered the most deterioration over the years. This restoration will develop in two phases: 1) preventative measures taken to arrest further deterioration and decay, to be undertaken during summer 2015 and 2) actual restoration of the Refuge, to be undertaken during summer 2016, if sufficient funds can be raised.

 

Under the direction of Fabrice Azzolin of the École des Beaux-Arts of Nantes, four young students are working on this first phase of the restoration. They first constructed a wooden structure to temporarily protect the Refuge, which is rusting, in order to ensure its security over the coming year. These students lived in Chomo’s Village for around ten days, and just by living there they resuscitated the site and breathed new life into it.

 

The week of July 13, all of those present ate together in the forest, in the middle of Chomo’s Village, in front of the house. The young students had access to the kitchen and they prepared a magnificent meal. In order to do this, they were inspired by Chomo’s sculptures, so they sculpted steamed carrots and other vegetables, and played with other different ingredients in order to create plate-sculptures. Chomo would have adored that! At the end of the meal, the students even improvised a jam session with different musical instruments, including guitar, flute, and harmonica. It was unbelievable to hear such beautiful music in the heart of the forest.  

 

The event, which brought in supporters of Chomo’s Village in addition to the Beaux-Arts contingent, was organized by SPACES Board member Laurent Danchin, who has written widely about Chomo and who has been the leading force in the campaign to save and preserve this important art environment.

 

Sign petition to help save Roberto Pérez’s Spanish art environment!

Posted in SPACES News, Threatened Environments

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Roberto Pérez has spent more than a quarter century creating a variety of artwork in different media, but his masterpiece is an architectural sculpture in the Spanish province of Granada. This work has been created with stone and recycled materials of all kinds, and  he has become known by many as the “Andalucian Gaudí.”

The Urban Planning Department of the province of Andalucía wants to demolish this work because it does not conform to local building codes. We are fighting their decision. Please sign the petition and pass it on to all your friends and colleagues:

 

Sign at this LINK.

 

Many Thanks,

Jo Farb Hernández, Director

SPACES – Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments

 

Support the Conservation of Chomo’s Village of Preludian Art!

Posted in Threatened Environments

SPACES Board member Laurent Danchin has launched a campaign to restore components of the Village d’Art Préludien created by Chomo (Roger Chomeaux, 1907-1999) in a small parcel located within the Fontainbleau forest in France. Although Chomo studied and successfully created and exhibited his work within the art mainstream as a young man, in 1960 he moved to this site, became a hermit, and spent the rest of his life creating an impressive environment of idiosyncratic buildings as well as numerous sculptures; most of the work was fabricated from recycled materials of all types. He named the site to reflect his feeling that his art served as a prelude to a new world that we would be soon to enter. 

 

chomo-at-night-2009-l-danchin-the-church-of-the-poor-img3193l´Église des Pauvres (The Church of the Poor) at night, 2009. Photo by Laurent Danchin.

The emphasis for the first phase of this conservation project is to restore Chomo’s Refuge; most of the other buildings, amazingly enough, are still in excellent shape, even after fifty years in the forest. Nevertheless, vandalism, theft, and deferred maintenance have taken their toll. Students and alumni from the Nantes School of Visual Arts will be guided by Fabrice Azzolin, teacher at the school and president of the IRES institute (Institute de Recherches et d’Études  Scéniques). Future plans include the construction of an enclosure that will surround and protect the site, and, ultimately, the development of a study center where creators and thinkers from all fields will come together to share their ideas and their knowledge.

 

For further information, or to contribute to this project, contact Laurent at laurent.danchin@free.fr.

 

Jo Farb Hernández

Help Fund the Ed Galloway Totem Pole Restoration Project!

Posted in SPACES News, Threatened Environments
Galloway Totem PoleGalloway Totem Pole in 1981, Photo by Seymour Rosen

Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park (built from 1937-1948) located within the Rogers State Historical Park in Foyil, OK, is in need of conservation. Although the site, which includes a 90-foot concrete totem pole surrounded by several smaller totems and a small octagonal building, has been restored several times over the years, with the exception of the work sponsored by the Kansas Grassroots Art Association almost two decades ago, none have been of sufficient quality, nor sufficiently durable.

Following a year-long investigation as to how best to restore the top half of the totem, a team led by teachers Erin Turner and Margo Hoover has begun a campaign to raise funds for these efforts. Check out the link and help fund this important restoration project: http://www.totempolepark.org

You can find out more about the project through their recent Kickstarter Campaign page, here.

And, as always, learn more about the site on the Ed Galloway Totem Pole page in our Online Collection, here.

Browse Blog Archives by Month
Highlights

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Preservation News

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

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SPACES News

Margaret’s Grocery listed as one of Mississippi’s Historic Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Properties!
Preservation News, Threatened Environments

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Found Objects

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 or to your Twitter account!

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces