Mourning Francisco González Gragera, creator of Capricho de Cotrina

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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. 

Sam Gappmayer Appointed New Director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Posted in Self-Taught Arts in the News

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The morning of Sept. 30, 2016, the Board of Directors of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center announced the hiring of Sam Gappmayer as the new Director of the Sheboygan, WI, arts organization. Gappmayer, who currently serves as President and CEO of the Peoria Riverfront Museum, will assume his new position October 17.

Gappmayer has 27 years of experience heading multidisciplinary arts organizations throughout the United States. Prior to the Peoria Riverfront Museum, he worked as the top executive at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum, ID. Gappmayer earned a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Oregon and a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts from Montana State University.

“I have admired the work of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and Ruth DeYoung Kohler, its longtime Director, for most of my career,” stated Gappmayer. “Vital and relevant programming in multiple artistic disciplines, the unique Arts/Industry program, and the focus on art environment builders sets the Arts Center apart as an important contributor to a healthy arts culture on local, regional, and national levels.”

Ruth DeYoung Kohler served as the Arts Center’s Director since 1972, and in January, she transitioned to the role of Director Emerita and Director of Strategic Initiatives. In 2015, she was honored with the Visionary Award from the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, and she received the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

“I have deep admiration for all that Ruth Kohler, the staff, board and donors have accomplished in building and expanding the reach of the Arts Center over many years and feel honored to become part of this dedicated creative community,” commented Gappmayer. “It is my intention to continue to enhance and extend the mission of this very special institution.”

John Michael Kohler Arts Center Board President Sandra Sachse said, “The board of directors believes that Sam has the skills and experience to continue the unique vision of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center as we go forward into the future. We welcome him and his wife, Ann, to our community.”

In 2017, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center will celebrate its 50th year as a leader in innovative explorations of the arts. Its programming is distinguished by original, thematic exhibitions; cutting-edge music and dance performances; commissions of collaborative community works of art; and a highly respected arts-based preschool. The Arts Center’s anniversary will be celebrated with a yearlong series of exhibitions featuring its world-renowned collection of works by art-environment builders. The Arts Center is also in the planning phase for construction of the Art Preserve, a facility that will provide state-of-the-art storage and display of its extensive collection.

About the John Michael Kohler Arts Center: Founded in 1967, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is dedicated to making innovative arts programming accessible to a broad audience that ranges from artists and academics to families and youth of all ages. Central to its mission is promoting understanding and appreciation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists through original exhibitions, commissioned works of art, performing arts programs, community arts initiatives, and publications. The Arts Center’s collections focus primarily on works by vernacular-environment builders, self-taught and folk artists, and works created in the Arts/Industry residency program.

Looking to the future, the Arts Center continues to generate new explorations in the arts that foster creative exchanges between an international community of artists and a diverse public, making real the power of the arts to transform lives and strengthen communities. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is supported by corporate and foundation donors, government grants, and its many members. The Arts Center is not an entity of Kohler Co. or its subsidiaries. More information about the Arts Center can be found at jmkac.org.

Grand Re-Opening of St. EOM's Pasaquan on Oct. 22 in Georgia

Posted in Preservation News



eombeard-environmentslideenlarge-1024-1024St. EOM. Photo courtesy Fred C. Fussell.

Pasaquan opens to the public on October 22, 2016 after two years of structural repairs and intense art conservation work. As Eddie Owens Martin, known as St. EOM, would say, the past, present, and future all come together at Pasaquan. And, indeed, they have.

Kohler Foundation was contacted by noted folklorist Fred Fussell of Columbus, Georgia on behalf of the Pasaquan Preservation Society more than ten years ago. The group cared for the site for over two decades, caring for it to the best of their ability but with limited resources. Pasaquan was always of interest to Kohler Foundation, and when Fred made that initial call, it was discussed, but the request was declined. Kohler Foundation was engaged in other preservation projects at the time, and frankly, the project was daunting given the deteriorating conditions and the magnitude of the site.

pasapan2-environmentslideenlarge-1024-1024BEFORE. Photo by Fred Scruton, 2011.

A decade later, when Fred called again, Kohler Foundation was seeking a major project and in the ensuing ten years, we had finished several major projects, including the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas. Over the years, we pulled together an amazing team of objects conservators and painting conservators who we trusted and who we knew could do the job. International Artifacts from Houston and Los Angeles, with technicians brought in from Kansas and Wisconsin, handled the structural issues with the art. Parma Conservation of Chicago took on the massive job of color matching, testing, and painting. These two conservation firms worked well as a team and benefited from local talent and interns from the University of Wisconsin and Columbus State University.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-121959-pmAFTER. Photo courtesy Kohler Foundation, 2016.

A local contractor, T.G. Gregory of Columbus, Georgia, was hired as general contractor. Tim’s crew proved to be exceptional problem solvers and highly skilled craftsmen. They did a superb job renovating and making the buildings functional and sound. With a keen understanding of preservation work, Tim’s group fit in well with the art conservation team, each with their own role, but guiding, helping and contributing to one another along the way.

Pasaquan is Kohler Foundation’s largest and most challenging project to date, but we had a team that worked through it and delivered incredible results.

st-eom-11-environmentslideenlarge-1024-1024 All this was done amid scorching heat and high humidity and constantly dealing with snakes, termites, spiders, and fire ants. Challenges and problems arrived as if by avalanche. Two years of hard work. Sweat and more sweat. Conditions were less than perfect, and there were also budgets and deadlines to be considered. Pasaquan is Kohler Foundation’s largest and most challenging project to date, but we had a team that worked through it and delivered incredible results. 

However, preserving the site is only half the equation. Kohler Foundation never takes on a site without a solid recipient identified to take care of the preserved site into the future. Without someone to care for the art and property, make it accessible to the public, and to offer programing, none of this would make sense. In this case, we were so very fortunate to partner with Columbus State University (Columbus, GA). Forward thinking and appreciative of the arts, CSU is an ideal recipient. Their administration has the courage to step outside the box and they recognize how art can enrich and change people’s lives for the better. They are already taking an interdisciplinary approach and involving other university disciplines to take advantage of this amazing resource and share it with others. Professor Mike McFalls, from CSU’s Art Department, coordinates the site and the programming. We couldn’t have better partners; clearly, what CSU does will continue to impact the region for many years to come.

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Pasaquan is located outside of Buena Vista in Marion County, GA, and this small community welcomed Kohler Foundation with open arms. Our team immersed themselves in Buena Vista and we have seen Buena Vista take on the challenge to be ready for the opening of Pasaquan. Their community leaders and state tourism officials recognize that Buena Vista and Marion County have a treasure in their midst. It is heart-warming to see this level of involvement from the local community as they welcome visitors to Pasaquan.



 

For more information contact the Director of Pasaquan, Professor Michael McFalls at mcfalls_michael@columbusstate.edu.

To find out more about the opening events, see details on the Pasaquan website.

 

~ Terri Yoho, Executive Director, Kohler Foundation, Inc.

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

Posted in Preservation News, SPACES News
fabulous-foursome-croppedSPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández, Luisa Del Giudice, Jeanne Morgan, Rosie Lee Hooks – Watts Towers Art Center. Photo by Paul Harris, courtesy Luisa Del Giudice

Born on September 20, 1926, Jeanne Smith Morgan was primarily raised by her grandmother, a Nebraska pioneer and one-room schoolteacher who was born in a sod house on the prairie. She learned early about perseverance, hard work, and to focus on what was important; she never used a mirror (it was hung too high for her to see into it as a child), nor a flush toilet or an electric light until she went to first grade. But she learned how to read and write from her grandfather, a house carpenter and farmer whose mother was a full-blooded Kentucky Cherokee, and how to make willow whistles, wren houses, and much more. Her grandparents were born only two decades after the end of the Civil War, so the Northern anti-slavery culture and its songs filled their home; she was taught about equality and equity and grew up to be a strong leftist thinker, sympathetic to those less fortunate than herself. But she also, from the very beginning, had an “eye,” and, after having received accolades for a picture of The Night that she drew with her Christmas Crayolas, her grandmother believed that she was born to be an artist. 

 

In 1940, when Morgan was in 8th grade, her grandmother died, and she moved to Denver with her mother and stepfather. Based on her art work, at age 14 she won a summer art scholarship to Denver University, an award that was granted to her in subsequent years as well. Thanks to her “dysfunctional family,” however, she became a ward of the court two years later; to overcompensate, she became VP of her class, All-School Show Producer, and more. She won a scholarship to Colorado College, but after one semester, with hopes for better art teachers, she scraped together $70 for train fare to New York to “study in the museums and find the socialists.” She married soon after her arrival, and she and her husband became “anti-Stalin social revolutionaries.”

 

p1070504Jeanne Morgan, photo by Jo Farb Hernández.

Morgan moved to Los Angeles in 1948, where she continued to be involved in the art scene on many levels, including painting a large public mural of Emiliano Zapata. Soon she received yet another scholarship, this one to attend the Otis Art Institute to obtain her MFA. Several years later, as a young art student and “trusted socialist,” she was invited to a civil rights meeting in South Central Los Angeles – Watts. The civil rights revolution was boiling, and with her friends traveling to the South to register voters, Morgan had been feeling like a renegade nonparticipant, focused on art school instead of being on the front lines of major social change. She never made it to that meeting, however, because she became lost and hit the eastern dead end of 107th street. Suddenly, she forgot all about the meeting, as she was confronted with one of the most spectacular and monumental works of art ever created by a single human: the Towers of Sabato Rodia.

 

Even awash in trash, the Towers indeed changed Morgan’s life. She vowed to do everything she could to salvage and bring further visibility to this marvelous achievement by this then-unknown artist. She brought other students to Watts with her, organizing Art Students for Watts Towers; even knowing they shouldn’t, they all climbed the Towers anyway, unable to resist. Toward the end of 1958, she learned from her artist friend Mae Babitz that there was a group of older Los Angeles professionals – architects, actors, designers, artists, and teachers who also wanted to support the Towers – and together, at that first December meeting at Hollyhock House, they founded the Committee for the Preservation of Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts (CSRTW), the original name of the group that would eventually be incorporated as a nonprofit corporation. Film editor Bill Cartwright and actor Nick King, who had just purchased the Towers from Rodia’s neighbor for $3000, urged the new Committee to work to defeat the City’s recently discovered Demolition Order, an order the neighbor had neglected to disclose when he happily sold them the property. The Committee’s success in doing so – after a gut-wrenching “stress test” in October, 1959 designed by aeronautical engineer Bud Goldstone – was the first step toward preservation, and, indeed, to ultimate worldwide recognition for this spectacular site. 

 

img0357City of Los Angeles Proclamation

But those early years weren’t easy – indeed, none of them were. Morgan describes herself as a “foot soldier” for the CSRTW, drawing up petitions and learning to stand up to the macho anti-cultural city authorities who only saw a pile of junk where she saw a masterpiece. In 1961 she and Mae Babitz traveled to Northern California to meet Rodia, carrying small gifts and telling him of their awe about what he had created. “We intended to amaze and cheer him,” she writes, “and we did.” This was the first of many trips for Morgan, and other CSRTW members followed; during one of those visits, it was arranged for Rodia to speak to students at the nearby Berkeley campus of the University of California in conjunction with a showing of the 1953 William Hale film; there, documented by SPACES founder Seymour Rosen, the artist received a standing ovation. 

 

In 1962 Morgan finished her MFA at Otis, with her thesis concentrating on contemporary methods in stained glass, a project inspired by the Towers and one that, ultimately, provided her with the chemical and technical knowledge to demonstrate varied rates of molecular movement in heat, the exact problem suffered by the Towers. Because Rodia had used a variety of materials with distinct and incompatible molecular structures, they compressed each other as they each uniquely reacted to the sun and heat; this differential movement created cracks that allowed moisture to seep into the metal cores and rust the armatures, thus endangering the structures’ stability. Morgan, therefore, knew on a much more technical level what was necessary for their durability over the long term, knowledge some of the people entrusted with preserving the Towers did not share.

 

As civil rights actions were heating up, members of the CSRTW knew that they could not, in good conscience, ignore the community in which the Towers were located. It had earlier been a diverse and multicultural neighborhood, but by the early 1960s it had become primarily African-American, as the earlier Japanese and Mexican residents had moved on. It was clear to Morgan that the broader philosophical, political, and sociological impact of the sculptures was as profound as their aesthetic power: “The relation of art and success arose. We couldn’t believe that a work of such great value and noble achievement could be so lost, so unknown. It was a shocking testimony to the plight of Watts’ people, who were certainly as ignored as were Rodia’s mighty sculptures. The Towers were like a jewel in a wound.” 

 

So, in 1965, now as Executive Director of the CSRTW, she was sent by her Board to staff an office in a little white house near the Towers that had been purchased two years earlier in order to provide a safe space in which they could offer free art classes to local children. Lucille Krasne, the children’s art instructor at the Pasadena Museum, had volunteered to teach classes near the Towers beginning in 1961, and once the office was established the untrained children ran in and out while their parents, thinking that this was a new social service agency, came in with pleas to help release a son from jail or provide food for a daughter’s baby. Yet while peace was mostly made with members of the community, Morgan recalls a self-styled “Mao Revolutionary” wearing khaki fatigues and a cap emblazoned with a large red star, wearing dark pancake makeup so as to blend in better with the local community, who yelled at her with great hostility: “You gettcher white ass out of here!” Of course, she didn’t. 

img0360City of Los Angeles Proclamation

 

The trust and appreciation of the community has waxed and waned over the years for those mostly white pioneers who, driven by their marvel at Rodia’s constructions, also became involved in trying to improve lives in Watts. After the Watts rebellion in 1965 – from which the Towers emerged unscathed – the neighborhood was no longer seen as safe for white visitors, and the Committee’s only income, derived from tours of the Towers, dried up. Nevertheless, the CSRTW continued working, and through volunteer labor and fundraising – including the “One Square Inch” campaign that sold miniscule portions of the Towers to supporters – succeeded in expanding those art classes, the earliest ones taught outdoors, into a permanent and handsome space, the Watts Towers Art Center. Inaugurated in 1970, it has become one of L.A.’s most dynamic cultural centers, with an ongoing series of exhibitions, performances, and festivals that draw thousands of visitors each year. 

 

By 1975, however, the Committee had no further funds, and some members were aging and/or moving away. Because the City of Los Angeles promised a complete restoration, touting Rodia’s work as a monumental aesthetic achievement, the decision was made to gift them the property. Relieved and reassured, the CSRTW signed a contract that included a clause requiring the City to solicit and receive the Committee’s approval for any matters impacting the Towers. However, the City ignored the contract, and, shortly thereafter, formally sold the Towers to the State of California for $207,000, with a lease-back to operate the Towers for fifty years. The City then transferred management of the Towers from the Department of Cultural Affairs to the Department of Public Works, more commonly in charge of LA’s sewers and streets than of works of art. DPW Director Warren Hollier then contracted with his friend Ralph Vaughn to manage the restoration process. An unlicensed and unscrupulous contractor who hired local youth and directed them to pry off anything that was loose on the Towers, Vaughn’s intent was to reinstall the “rubble” later according to his own designs, rather than those of Rodia. “It’s folk art,” he cried, “and we’re folks! Better than Rodia!”

 

Thanks to pro bono legal help from Carlyle Hall’s Center for Laws in the Public Interest, the CSRTW sued the City, and in 1979 ultimately won case C259603 in Superior Court, cancelling Vaughn’s contract. Further, a complementary Los Angeles Times investigation exposed kickbacks to the head of the DPW, forcing his resignation. Other local officials, including the mayor’s daughter, were also implicated in the illicit purchase of supplies and other materials. But despite this hard-won victory, ill-informed and unethical attempts to conserve the Towers continued in subsequent years; as late as 2006, Morgan and others helped prevent another City-sponsored crew from shoddy and inexpert repair. But they were too late to stop a crew member who destroyed Rodia’s signature – his right handprint placed in the wet mortar just west of the exterior north wall gate. A poor reproduction has now replaced it.

p1070462Rosie Lee Hooks, Jeanne Morgan, and Jack Jones III from the City of Los Angeles, photo by Jo Farb Hernández

Morgan has worked for almost sixty years with the Towers as Executive Director and/or Curator of the CSRTW, and the more involved she became, the more complex and challenging the work became. Nevertheless, she concurrently prolifically continued to produce her own art, and explore the work of those other artists whose works she finds of particular interest. Also a compelling writer, she served as Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Free Press, and both her creative work and her writings analyzing the Towers have appeared in national and international publications. Her most recent publication is An Interpretation of Goya’s Caprichos: With 80 Interpretive Line Drawings. 


Morgan, at 90, now rarely visits the Towers, partly due to her move, around 1981, to Santa Barbara, some two hours north. Nevertheless, she continues to draw them, and to brainstorm and write about them, as she sends out regular missives advocating for their safety and preservation – an increasingly lonely job, as most of her original CSRTW compatriots have passed on or have grown tired of the fight. She is relieved and delighted that now, with trained conservators from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art having undertaking the task of conservation, basing their design on the meticulous vintage photographs taken of the Towersand their hands-on work on real science, new technology may help to better preserve Rodia’s masterpiece for the long term.  

 

unesco-lunchInterested parties and stakeholders in the bid to have the Watts Towers honored as a cultural heritage site through UNESCO. Photo courtesy Luisa Del Giudice

On September 25, Morgan’s 90th birthday was celebrated at the Towers. Joined by new and old friends – including some she had never met in person but with whom she had corresponded over the decades – SPACES hosted a luncheon to celebrate the proclamations of service and gratitude granted her by the City of Los Angeles, her longtime opponent. Rosie Lee Hooks, Director of the Watts Towers Art Center, and Luisa Del Giudice, prime mover behind the Watts Common Ground Initiative and the initiative to place the Towers on UNESCO’s list for consideration for cultural heritage status, joined SPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández and others in feting Morgan’s achievements. Her long and productive life, working in a variety of ways on a variety of levels, has been spent trying to expand artistic horizons and appreciation for artworks often unknown or underappreciated, and to right often egregious wrongs that others often shrank from challenging. She is an inspiration to all of us to continue this struggle.

 

- Jo Farb Hernández, based on personal emails from Morgan to author, July through September, 2016. Excerpts from this text will be published in the December 2016 issue of Folk Art Messenger.

TAKE ACTION: Tell City Officials to Support the Watts Towers Arts Center and its Programs

Posted in Preservation News, Take Action

 

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 Dear Friends,

 

Last week, the 40th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival and the 35th Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival survived a SERIOUS THREAT from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs.  Due to their stated administrative strictures, they were going to withhold resources essential for the Festivals’ presentation this year.  At the last minute, after months of sporadic discussions with Watts Towers Arts Center Campus staff and Campus community support groups, the present crisis was averted.

 

We ask you now to help us avoid such a crisis in the future!  We need to show official Los Angeles the depth of support that the Watts Towers and its Arts Center has.  Help us impress upon the representatives of Los Angeles city government the importance of open communication with the staff of the Watts Towers Arts Center and the representatives of the Campus community support groups who have worked over the years on site to plan, organize and present these vital community events.

 

 

We ask you to put your name to the letter we have prepared below and to send it to everyone on the “Mail to:” list beneath the letter.  

Make whatever changes in the letter you feel will better reflect your perspective. Then send the letter to the first address on the list (Danielle Brazell, General Manager, Department of Cultural Affairs) and cc all the following names.

 

 

Please join us in continuing to protect the Watts community from the possibility of losing these public festival treasures that have represented our cultural heritage over four decades.

 

Thank you.

 

 

[SAMPLE LETTER below]

 

Dear Ms. Brazell,

 

I am grateful that the Department of Cultural Affairs has removed the obstructions threatening the production of the 40th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival and the 35th Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival, scheduled for presentation on September 24 and 25.  It is appalling to think that these cultural heritage treasures – the oldest continuously running annual music festivals offered free to the public in the City of Los Angeles – might not have been presented this year.  

 

I stand by the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus staff and community support groups. I urge you to allow them in the spirit of open communication and mutual cooperation to continue to serve the City and our community and to showcase the riches of our cultural heritage under one of the world’s great monuments of architectural sculpture.

 

I ask as well that you help them seek the support of the City Councilman in whose district the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus has served to bring world-class arts exhibitions and professional arts and music education for over 50 years.       

 

Rodia’s Nuestro Pueblo, the Watts Towers Arts Center and these historic heritage festivals are beacons of freedom, initiative and multi-ethnic harmony.  The City of Los Angeles cannot afford to have such powerful symbols of peace and community be lost in these troubled times that we all must face together.

 

Sincerely yours,

YOUR NAME

 

In support of 

The Watts Towers Community Action Council

The Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center

The Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus

The Watts Towers Arts Center Youth Board     

 

 

Mail to:

 

danielle.brazell@lacity.orgdaniel.tarica@lacity.orgLeslie.a.thomas@lacity.orgeric.garcetti@lacity.orgbarbara.romero@lacity.org

Edgar.garcia@lacity.orgluis.rivera@lacity.orgJoel.jacinto@la.city.orgMike.davis@lacity.orgcontroller.galperin@lacity.org

joe.buscaino@lacity.orgCouncilmember.wesson@lacity.orgdavid.ryu@lacity.org; councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org; councilmember.price@lacity.org; paul.koretz@lacity.org; Markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov; sawoods@parks.ca.gov; leslie.hartzell@parks.ca.gov; Terry.nicholson@mail.house.gov; 

Ericfboyd@mailhouse.gov; lucy.walker@sen.ca.gov; Holly.mitchell@sen.ca.gov; Michelle.chambers@asm.ca.gov

Keara.joe@asm.ca.gov; craig.watson@arts.ca.gov; kelan10@att.netwatts.towers1@lacity.org

 

 

Remembering Josep Pujiula i Vila (1937-2016)

Posted in Just Added, Self-Taught Arts in the News

 

OBITUARY: JOSEP PUJIULA I VILA

Jo Farb Hernández

Internationally renowned art environment builder Josep Pujiula i Vila suddenly died of a heart attack the morning of June 2, 2016. He was 79 years old.

 

untitledPhoto: Jo Farb Hernández, 2000

Beginning in the 1970s, Pujiula built a series of monumental openwork structures out of willow branches and found objects in a wooded area just west of the village of Argelaguer in the Pyrenean foothills of Catalunya. But as he didn’t build on his own property, again and again he ran into challenges with authorities from the municipality, the electrical company, and the agencies in charge of water, electricity, and highways. Responding to their demands, he destroyed but then rebuilt four complete art environments in this area, each unique but each also utilizing what became his iconic material and motif: arched tunnels created from the flexible branches of the saplings found by the nearby Fluvià River. He lashed these slim limbs together to erect numerous towers reaching 40 meters (130+ feet) high and labyrinths that curved around the hillsides, snaking up and stretching over a kilometer in length. Shelters, passageways strung 20 meters (65 feet) in the air, stairways, and bridges added to the complexity of the maze.

 

untitled2-z3gPhoto: Jo Farb Hernández, 2009

 

untitled3-5m7Photos: Jo Farb Hernández, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the last fifteen years Pujiula also constructed a lyrical fountain area in concrete and iron, increasing the durability of his work and the immortality of his name. Hugging the hillside and ornamented with kinetic steel and stone sculptures, these cascading ponds finished in a natural pool below.

 

 

 

untitled4Photo: Jo Farb Hernández, 2007

Most recently, he hacked out his own “Pharaonic Tomb” from the rocky hillside with simple hand tools, covering the exterior façade as well as the interior walls with hieroglyphics that represented images from his life.

 

untitled5Photo: Sam Hernández 2016

 Pujiula’s creation of one of the most spectacular and extensive art environments anywhere defied traditional community norms of aesthetics and function, yet enjoyment of his site by visitors ultimately became crucial to his continued efforts. Finally, after decades fighting the authorities, in October 2014 Pujiula’s site was officially recognized as a local heritage site, a worthy recipient of county funding and support. And in the summer of 2015 he was a finalist for the International Award for Public Art, representing all of Europe including the Russian Federation. He was flown down to New Zealand for the award ceremony, his first major trip beyond Catalunya.

In recent weeks Pujiula manifested a creative explosion that astonished his family. “He was thinking only about building,” his son-in-law wrote me three weeks ago, “as if it would be the last act and legacy of his life.”

 

 

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

Dispatch from the Field: Jo Farb Hernández in Spain

Posted in Just Added, SPACES News

April turned out to be an extremely busy month as I continue my work in Spain.

The early part of the month I lectured on my Spanish art environment project (Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments) at Madrid’s fabulous Factoría Cultural. This arts complex, the former livestock market and slaughterhouse, takes up an entire city block of beautifully restored brick buildings; among other elements it includes spaces for performances, theatre, exhibitions, children’s workshops, lectures, and artist studios. 

untitledPresenting 'Singular Spaces' at Madrid’s Factoría Culturaluntitled2with Lucía Ybarra, Director of External Affairs for the Factoría Cultural

Later in the month I participated as a presenter as part of the first Diploma in Art Brut being offered at the University of Granada. This is an intensive six-week evening course, and I was pleased to be one of the early presenters so that I could express our understanding of the breadth of the field and appropriate ways to describe the artworks and honor the artists.

untitled3Left to right: SPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández, artist Roberto Pérez (La Finca de las Piedras Encantadas), author/curator Graciela García, and Pepa Mora Sánchez, UGR Professor and organizar of the Diploma.

Taking advantage of being in southern Spain, I spent the next several days doing fieldwork on three art environments that I had not previously known.  All three (as well as many others) will be included in the second volume of my Singular Spaces project, and all three are truly amazing sites. 

The first was a visit to the ornamented garden and home of Juan Muñoz Benítez. Although the artist died several years ago, his younger brother Anastasio is faithfully maintaining his work. Muñoz’s small village on the outskirts of Granada is about an hour from the coast, so the artist would travel there in his little Seat 600 to collect little stones and pebbles with which he would ornament his home and yard. Riffing off of the traditional “Granadino” [from Granada area] style of inlaying stones into sidewalks and streets, Muñoz took this to another level, with sophisticated designs, conceptually intriguing juxtapositions of flat work with bas-relief and three-dimensional elements, and meticulous craftsmanship.

 

interiorHome InteriorexteriorHome Exterior

The following day we headed down to the beaches of the Adra area, between Malaga and Almería. There, María Rodríguez has been working on a shell garden. Her house fronts the beach, and all of her raw materials are found there simply for the cost of picking them up.

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The last day we headed west of Malaga to Benalmádena, where Karl Martín and his mother are caring for, conserving, and supporting the spectacular monument conceived and built by their late father/husband, Estéban Martin Martin from 1987-1994. Helped by two local bricklayers, Martín’s Castillo de Colomares is dedicated to Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. This site is open to the public daily, and is the only architectural structure I’ve seen in Spain that approaches Ferdinand Cheval’s Palais Idéal in complexity and conceptual depth. More photos will be forthcoming as we develop the page for the SPACES website.

One of Columbus’s original ships, the Santa María, which broke apart and did not return with the crew to Spain in 1493.

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ship3Detail of one of the central towers

May is shaping up to be similarly busy; among other projects, I’ll be lecturing and participating in a round table in Bilbao on Spanish art environments, and  subsequent to that will take advantage of my trip north to visit several “new” art environments in the Basque Country, Navarra, and La Rioja. Watch this space for images and more information after that fieldwork trip as well.

I hope you’re having a marvelous spring! Let us know if you discover or update your images of any art environments as you travel.

  

With all best,

jo


Jo Farb Hernández

Director, SPACES

ACT NOW: Support the Watts Towers Candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

Posted in Preservation News

 

UNESCO World Heritage sites are considered among those monuments, neighborhoods, and buildings that demonstrate Outstanding Universal Value – the best in the world. We believe that the Watts Towers art environment in Los Angeles qualifies under that criteria, and are looking to submit an application for their review, but we have an extremely small window of opportunity to advance the candidacy of this site: paperwork must be received by UNESCO by April 30 – less than one month away!
In order for the nomination to even be submitted, we need the support of the City of Los Angeles, managers of the Watts Towers. To that end, we urge you to write to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the following list of staffers and administrators, urging them to support this initiative. My sample letter is attached, but please feel free to personalize it to reflect your own experience with and support of the Towers.
Thanks in advance for helping us bring additional visibility and protection to one of the most important art environments the world over!

 

Send letters to:
 
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles:  eric.garcetti@lacity.org
Edgar Garcia, City of Los Angeles, Office of the Mayor:  Edgar.garcia@lacity.org
Danielle Brazell, General Manager, Department of Cultural Affairs:  danielle.brazell@lacity.org
Daniel Tarica, Assistant General Manager, Department of Cultural Affairs:  daniel.tarica@lacity.org
Leslie Thomas, Director, Community Arts Division Dept. of Cultural Affairs: Leslie.a.thomas@lacity.org
Joseph Buscaino, Councilman, 15th District 15:  joe.buscaino@lacity.org
Mike Davis, Commissioner, City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works: Mike.davis@lacity.org
Joel Jacinto, Commissioner, City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works, Joel.jacinto@lacity.org
Sean Woods, Superintendent, Los Angeles Sector, California State Parks:  sawoods@parks.ca.gov
Leslie Hartzell, Chief, Cultural Resources Division, State Parks:  leslie.hartzell@parks.ca.gov
Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov
Herb J. Wesson, Councilman, 10th District:  Councilmember.wesson@lacity.org
 
 
And copy them to:
 
Jo Farb Hernández, Director, SPACES: jfh@cruzio.com
Luisa Del Guidice, Watts Towers UNESCO Committee: luisadg@humnet.ucla.edu
Maxine Waters, U.S. Congresswoman, Attn: Terry Nicholson:  Terry.nicholson@mail.house.gov
Isadore Hall III, California State Senator, Attn: Lucy Walker  lucy.walker@sen.ca.gov
Holly Mitchell, California State Senator:  Holly.mitchell@sen.ca.gov
Mike Gipson, 64th District Assemblymember:  Attn: Keara Joe Keara.joe@asm.ca.gov
Craig Watson, Director, California Arts Council:  craig.watson@arts.ca.gov
Julie Fry, President and CEO, California Council for the Humanities Attn:  Felicia Kelley fkelley@calhum.org
Rosie Lee Hooks, Director, Watts Towers Arts Center Campus, Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Watts.towers1@lacity.org

Support Watts Towers letter (.pdf format)

Support Watts Towers letter (.txt format)

 

March 24, 2016

SPACES (Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments)
9053 Soquel Drive, Suite 205
Aptos, CA 95003

Eric Garcetti, Mayor
City of Los Angeles
Via email : eric.garcetti@lacity.org

Dear Mr. Garcetti:

As you no doubt know, the Watts Towers complex, built by Italian immigrant Sabato Rodia over a 30-plus year period beginning in 1921, is not only the most important public art work in the City of Los Angeles, but has been recognized with state and national status on their registers of historical landmarks and monuments. It is renowned globally as an icon of the genre of art environments and is a draw for art enthusiasts from around the world; indeed, a 2009 international conference in Italy focused on the Towers, and I myself have used them as the fulcrum for discussions about art environments across the United States, as well as in lectures in France, Spain, and Switzerland.

 

At this time we have the opportunity to assure that the Watts Towers gain even further visibility and protection by having them be considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The window of opportunity for submission of this application, however, is tight: we must submit all paperwork by April 30, just over one month away. We have the backing from the current owners of the monument – the State of California’s State Parks system – as well as from an impressive roster of international scholars and citizen advocates. And we have no doubt that we will be easily able to meet and surpass the criteria for the “Outstanding Universal Value” that is required for the nomination to move forward in the process. (For further information, you might wish to review additional documentation about the Towers at www.WattsTowersCommonGround.org or http://spacesarchives.org/explore/collection/environment/watts-towers/.)

 

This application, however, cannot move forward without the express support of the City of Los Angeles, managers of the site.

 

I therefore urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to take all immediate measures necessary to authorize submittal of this application enabling the Watts Towers to be reviewed as a possible candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status. You, and the City of Los Angeles, have nothing to lose but much to gain should the candidacy be approved.

Should you have any questions, I would be pleased to answer them or to provide whatever additional information you might require.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter, and congratulations, in advance, for having begun the process to add an important World Heritage Site to the list of Los Angeles’s many assets.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jo Farb Hernandez
Executive Director
www.spacesarchives.org

 

 

 

SPACES in Switzerland

Posted in SPACES News

I was delighted to be approached by the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland to co-curate an exhibition of annotated photographs of art environments to complement their exhibition Architectures, which opened November 13, 2015 and will continue through April 17, 2016. Our photographs were significantly enlarged and installed on panels in front of the museum; the following artists are featured: Josep Pujiula, Francisco Gonzalez Gragera, Peter Buch, and Felix Sanperiz from Spain (texts and photos mine); Euclides Da Costa Ferreira from France (photos Seymour Rosen, text by Henk van Es), and Sabato Rodia (photos and text mine), along with Billy Tripp and Cano Espinoza from the US (photos and text by Fred Scruton). There is also a separate panel which focuses on SPACES and our history/mission/activities, introducing what we do to the targeted audience of the Collection de l’art brut.

 

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In conjunction with the exhibition, I was invited to speak at a conference organized by the CAB along with the Forum on Architecture of Lausanne. SPACES Board member Laurent Danchin had also been scheduled to speak but had to cancel; in his stead, art historian Roberta Trapani and architect/painter Arduino Cantàflora filled out the rest of the program.

Collection de l’art brut Curator Pascale Marini-Jeanneret introduces my lecture:

blog-3-0krCollection de l’art brut Curator Pascale Marini-Jeanneret introduces my lecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog-4-c1nPhoto by Sam Hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog5-c85Roberta Trapani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog6-k4rArduino Cantflora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog7-f29CAB Director Sarah Lombardi, CAB Curator Pascale Marini-Jeanneret, and SPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández at the Forum on Architecture, Lausanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

Browse Blog Archives by Month
Highlights

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

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

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Threatened Environments

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Self-Taught Arts in the News

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

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Preservation News, Threatened Environments

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