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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.

The loss of a site (contributed by Debra Brehmer)

Posted in Threatened Environments

The question looms large:  Why preserve an art environment on its original site if there is money to move it to a location that might be more suited to “public access” and less contested by the neighborhood?

The Mary Nohl (1914-2001) art environment is located in a wealthy, beachfront neighborhood on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.  Although Nohl’s family acquired the land in 1924 when, due to limited roads, it was rural and inaccessible, the area slowly underwent transformation. First, it became the setting for vacation homes, with small cottages dotting the woods, and a beach area located beneath a steep bluff. From the 1950s onward, with the postwar shift to a suburban middle class, the area became subdivided into large ranch houses and acre-sized lawns. Today, a lakeside home with an unobstructed view on a generous slice of yard might be valued from $600,000 to over a million dollars.

The one constant on Beach Drive through all of this change has been the Mary Nohl environment, which now stands in sharp physical and philosophical contrast to the neighborhood climate. And this has become the problem.

Nohl earned her art degree at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1937 and a teaching certificate in 1939. Most of her classmates graduated, married, and stepped into family roles, but Nohl wanted to make art. She taught at middle schools for a few years and then returned to Wisconsin, opened a commercial pottery studio, and moved back into the cottage home on Beach Drive. She worked in an interdisciplinary manner, taking on new materials with enthusiasm. She melted her mother’s wedding silver to make jewelry, carved logs washed up from the beach, prided herself in mastering power tools, mixed cement, made collages, painted, drew, sewed hemp figures, turned beach stones into rings and amulets, and drip-painted her furniture, carpets, and telephone.

From the 1950s until her death in 2001 at age 87, Mary Nohl transformed the yard, as well as both the interior and exterior of the house, into an expansive work of art that was inspired by her childhood roots in this charming setting. Sand and stones from the beach were used to mix the concrete that formed the many yard sculptures. Cutout wooden reliefs of swimmers and boaters created patterns on the house. Wind chimes once hung in the trees, translating the significant breezes into aural compositions. Nohl used what was on hand for her artwork, being both resourceful and inspired by the process of making something from the land. All of her endeavors, be it jewelry making and painting during the winter months or yard work in the summers, emanated out of a direct conversation with this particular site.

Before Nohl died she worked out a contract with the Kohler Foundation, the country’s leading nonprofit foundation dedicated to preserving art environments. She gifted her house and all of her artwork to the foundation for preservation. She also left $11 million to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to distribute to individual artists to help support their abilities to focus on their work. Nohl had been grateful to have had the financial resources to be a full time artist (her father was a prominent attorney who had invested well). She felt that there couldn’t be a more meaningful pursuit, nor a more pleasurable one, than the engagement of making, of using one’s hands, of design and invention.

Her artwork and environment serve as a monument to the reasons why art is important in this world. Many of these reasons become diluted within the professional arena of galleries and museums, when the marketplace creates an alternative value system and channels access according to economic status and education. By its nature, the professional art system narrows the conversation about certain art practices, even as it seeks to promote, display, and distribute them.

Nohl worked outside of those systems. She had discovered early on that by creating her own “museum” on Beach Drive, she could share her work broadly and still receive feedback, engagement and meaningful exchange. Other artists have done the same: Tressa Prisbrey, Helen Martins, and Kea Tawana are all excellent examples. Each of these artists chose to work within their home sphere and integrate their production into a more diverse and lived-in cultural landscape.

People found their way to Mary Nohl’s environment on their own, by accident or word of mouth, and they processed it independently from a guided critique, which is very different than wandering into the frame of an art gallery. There was no one on Beach Drive declaring it “art,” which left a sense of wonder in place. Who did this, and why? Is it a shrine, a cemetery, a staged fable?

Some visitors left notes of approval and gratitude in Nohl’s mailbox. These responses suggested that the site made people feel that the world still held possibilities of independence, invention, and self-definition, in contrast to society’s more confining and controlling forces. Others made up stories about the site, spreading rumors that a witch lived there, that she had murdered her family, or that her husband and son were lost in the lake and she subsequently went crazy and made the art to guide their spirits home. Teenagers came to revel, share an adventure, and scare their girlfriends.

Although the site has been named a Milwaukee County Landmark and recognized as an historic landmark on the Wisconsin Registry of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places, and everything was in place to preserve it, a years-long battle has taken place to keep it whole and in place. Now owned by the John Michael Kohler Art Center’s new nonprofit arm Creation and Preservation Partners, it was abruptly announced in March 2014 that the site will be dismantled and shipped north to Sheboygan County, home to the art center. The artist, however, had gifted the house, yard, and all of the art with the intention that it would truly be preserved in situ. Although she had apparently changed the legal language of the contract at the very end of her life, she had vocalized many times that she did not want her work to be moved. She also had no idea—or at least, never expressed it—that her neighbors would so resolutely stonewall the idea of legalizing public access to her site.

Only a few of the neighbors on Beach Drive vehemently opposed every preservation proposal and effort over the past thirteen years. Their main concern was that the art environment brought additional traffic to this residential enclave, although, of course, they had purchased their houses in the area knowing the draw of the site. As they battled to prevent even limited public access to Nohl’s work, they seem not to have understood its value to the broader world, nor its value as art. Some of the neighbors on Beach Drive see no “magic” in the site or any meaning in the endeavor of this one woman and her wheelbarrow; rather, they consider it an eyesore.

The Kohler Foundation and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center had decided to fight this battle privately and quietly, outside of public input and press coverage, due to the sensitivity and contentiousness of the neighbors. After a flood damaged the heating and electrical systems in 2010, the Kohler removed everything from the house and undertook conservation of damaged objects. But, after much consideration and evaluation, they made the difficult decision not to repair the house at that time. And, with the neighbors intransigent to all proposals regarding public visitation, Kohler has, for the moment at least, backed off. The current plan is to dismantle and re-assemble the house, along with the exterior sculptures, an effort that will be partially funded by the sale of the lakeside property.

However,moving Mary Nohl’s site is not preserving it. It is creating a facsimile, an approximation, a managed and guided experience that is divorced from its most significant context: its place. As Walter Benjamin stated in his essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”

The art world can be an unsettling place where the comforts of social order and rational thinking are rewritten, often in a confusing manner. Most people adhere to the value of the art world only if they are “within” the art world. Nohl’s angry neighbors may very well be members of the Milwaukee Art Museum who take pride and gain enjoyment from the exhibitions and offerings there. The hand of authority guides them. But it may be more difficult for them to understand the value of an unlabeled “environment” built by one independent, unmarried woman who ascribed only to her own system of common sense, invention, and stubborn intellectual curiosity. Anyone who knew her recognized her intelligence and wit. She was not strange or eccentric, although she was often so typecast. Rather, she was smart enough to resist and remain skeptical of social mores and conventions. If she didn’t need new clothes because her old ones were not worn out, she didn’t buy them. Guided by practicality and curiosity, Nohl wanted to make art. And that’s what she did.

And this highlights one of the major components of this crisis: Not only are we losing a globally important art environment, but, as art environments built by women are relatively rare, we are losing one of three of the world’s most important extantenvironments built independently by a woman. In South Africa, Helen Martins’ Owl House has been preserved and is now the pride of the village, although it drew skepticism and derision when Martins was alive. In California, Tressa “Grandma” Prisbrey’s Bottle Village is surviving, but it is not still as secure, stable, or accessible as its distinction warrants. We need monuments made by women to buoy the confidence of other women. We need to respect artists whose creative lives take place in the domestic sphere. Rarely does a work of art have such a profound impact on the people who come to it on their own terms and value it for their own reasons.

Art environments often exist tenuously amidst friction in a world that turns on routines, assimilation, and sameness. Individuals including Emery Blagdon, Fred Smith, Sabato Rodia, Mary Nohl, Tressa Prisbrey, and Helen Martins, who make something unique, often out of very little, should be considered our contemporary prophets; those who survived the crushing forces of late capitalism. And rather than disparaging them, we need to celebrate the passion and the potency of their work,

It seems fated, now, that despite the Kohler’s tireless efforts, we are going to lose this major art environment. The process of dismantling and relocating the site will be costly, arduous and complex, and it will undoubtedly take many years. But by moving Mary Nohl’s environment much will be lost in the process; the physical elements may survive and become something else in a new location, but the soul of the site will be left behind. To lose this site where the art is woven into the power and history of the land, where we witness a seamlessness of enterprise that we cannot experience in a museum or a re-creation of a site, is to lose something incontrovertibly rare.

Made by a woman who defied the social imperative in the 1950s, Nohl gave us an example of how joy is procured from wood, stone, and a summer day, and how making things with one’s hands may be the most productive and profoundly human activity anyone can ever do. Perhaps this is the worst part of it all. We have so much to learn from Mary Nohl.

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Preservation News, 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