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Materializing the Bible. by James S. Bielo (Miami University)

Posted in Gardens, Religious, Devotional & Spiritual

Materializing the Bible

By: James S. Bielo (Miami University)

pic-1-464The main attraction is a replica of the Garden Tomb, which many Protestant traditions claim to be Jesus’ true burial site (rather than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is favored by Eastern Orthodox and Catholic traditions). Perhaps visitors imagine Cincinnati as Jerusalem, a city on the doorstep of an open tomb.

 

It is revealing that an organizing category for SPACES is “Grottos, Religious, Spiritual, Devotional, Mystical Environments.” Artistry and creative production are durable parts of religious life, in officially sanctioned and off-grid spaces. Given this, it is no surprise that SPACES bolsters a work I began in July 2015 that similarly gathers a diverse collection of places.

 

Materializing the Bible is a digital scholarship project that curates Bible-based attractions around the world. The site builds the argument that seemingly different attractions are all expressions of a distinctive genre of place. That genre is defined by transforming the written words of the Christian Bible into physical, experiential environments. With the research help of a student at Miami University, we created the project to be an interactive gateway for exploring the global spread of Bible-based attractions. See  http://www.materializingthebible.com/.

 

Currently, the site is a portal to 194 attractions, organized by six sub-genres: re-creations of biblical stories; creation museums; biblical gardens; transmission museums; art collections; and, archaeology museums. Many attractions exemplify the SPACES conception of an art environment, such as the Desert Christ Park in Yucca Valley, California. Others mix the feel of an art environment with replications of a biblical past that strive toward historical authenticity, such as the House of Mary Shrine in Yankton, South Dakota.

 

As an anthropologist, I am most interested in what potentials these attractions promise for religious lives. In particular, how do they satisfy desires to experience and understand faith in ways that are materially oriented and sensuously engaged?

 

In March 2016, I visited the Garden of Hopein Covington, Kentucky. Completed in 1958 by an evangelical pastor, this small attraction sits on the backside of a working-class neighborhood. If you are not seeking it, you will not stumble on it. Situated atop a hill, the sound of I-75’s rushing traffic directly below saturates the soundscape as you realize an unencumbered view of Cincinnati’s skyline.

pic-3-v8dSPACES emboldens me to think more about how attractions function as art environments, opening new analytical avenues. For example, when biblical replicas and references that jump across time periods or cultural locations are arranged together, it is insufficient to merely proclaim anachronism. Such arrangements can express a distinct artistic vision, which may very well index a distinct theological vision. I look forward to continuing this exploration.pic-2-wfkNext to a footpath near the replica, there is a weathered and partially destroyed sign marking the planting of biblical flora. This borrows from the sub-genre of Biblical Gardens, where entire attractions are filled only with plants, trees, and shrubs named by scripture. The sign references 2 Chronicles 2:8, which has no prophetic link to the New Testament. But here, the presence of biblical flora is not about hermeneutics, it’s about aesthetics. The textual connection is less important than the immersive effect of the combined material elements.



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

 

 

 

 

Mr. Imagination exhibit at Intuit named one of 10 best in the United States

Posted in Self-Taught Arts in the News
unnamed-4Photo courtesy Intuit.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art’s Welcome to the World of Mr. Imagination exhibit was recognized as one of the 10 best exhibits in the United States in 2015 by Hyperallergic, an online art forum with global reach.

 

In the article awarding Intuit the eighth spot on the list, Hyperallergic contributor Benjamin Sutton captures the spirit of the exhibit with the line: “Amid all the staffs, thrones, busts, talismans, and religious figures, one felt truly immersed in an alternate universe of boundless optimism and constant celebration-yet not without its share of hardship and pain.” 


Welcome to the World of Mr. Imagination was originally scheduled to be on view at Intuit Jan. 9-April 25, 2015, and then extended through May 24, 2015, due to the exhibit’s popularity. Curated by Martha Henry, this exhibition was the first Chicago retrospective since the death of the artist known as Mr. Imagination (Gregory Warmack, 1948-2012), whose career spanned more than 30 years. Chicago was Mr. Imagination’s hometown and where he developed and matured as an artist. The diverse collection surveyed the nationally-recognized artist’s career, incorporating sculptures, furniture, accessories and his signature bottle cap pieces.

 

“Mr. Imagination was a messenger who preached that the power of art can transform lives and transcend adversity,” notes Henry. “I am gratified that Intuit supported my vision of bringing to life Mr. Imagination’s extraordinary world where art and artist were inseparable.” 

 

 

mr-i-at-home2220267729oPhoto of Mr. Imagination by Kelly Ludwig.

Established in 1991, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art is the only nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated solely to presenting self-taught and outsider art-with world class exhibitions; resources for scholars and students; a collection of more than 1,100 works of art; the Henry Darger Room Collection; the Robert A. Roth Study Center, a non-circulating collection with a primary focus in the fields of outsider and contemporary self-taught art; and educational programming for people of all interest levels and backgrounds.

 

SPACES readers can view images of work by Mr. Imagination by photographer Kelly Ludwig in our Online Collection HERE. If you are interested in contributing your own images, ephemera, or writing to SPACES Archives regarding this artist and his site, you may submit them HERE

 

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

Posted in SPACES News

 

20151207174155image002-7d8

 

Friends + amigos, 

 

If you will be in Madrid next week, please come to the Reina Sofia Museum on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 pm to enjoy the presentation of my book Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, along with books by three other women who have recently published on the theme of art brut/art environments in Spain, Cuba, and Italy.

These works flow outside of the mainstream currents of art, and, as such, escape the homogeneity of much contemporary work. Their creators, primarily self-taught, express a unstoppable need to create. They thus fulfill an important role as active witnesses to the power of art to realize unique, passionate, and personal inspirations. Giada Carraro, Jo Farb Hernández, Graciela García, and Yaysis Ojeda Becerra, four women from different parts of the world, have recently published books on this theme. They will come together at the La Central bookstore at Madrid’s Museum Art Center Reina Sofía, Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art, in order to more widely disseminate their publications on creative expressions found outside of the principal circuits of art.”

Find out more HERE.

 

Warmly,

jo

 

********************

 

Si por si acaso estaréis en Madrid la semana que viene, por favor pasáis a la Reina Sofia jueves a las 19:00 de la tarde para una presentación de mi libro Singular Spaces igual con 3 libros más sobre el asunto de arte brut/art environments en España, Cuba, e Italia. ¡Todos sean bienvenidos!

 

Mas AQUI.

 

Un saludo,

jo

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.

 

Watch 1990s Jarvis Cocker Travel Art Environments All Over the World in This BBC Mini-Series

Posted in Found Objects

 

We recently stumbled upon a vintage gem on the art environment beat:

The English musician Jarvis Cocker, largely known as the frontman of the popular 90s Britpop group Pulp, traveling the world over to visit art environments and meet with the makers behind them in his 1999 three-part television series on BBC 4, “Journeys Into the Outside With Jarvis Cocker.”

Journeys Into the Outside with Jarvis Cocker

 Who better to bring the world of self-taught art to the public than the idiosyncratic performer behind the 1995 hit, “Common People.” In the introduction, Cocker explains his inspiration for the series, in school at London’s St. Martin’s School of Art:

“So desperate to find a spark of inspiration, something that would help to put these feelings into words, I began to scour the college library. There was no shortage of material on offer, but none of it seemed to fit the bill. I needed to find something outside all this, something that had not been analysed to death. And then when I had all but given up hope of such a thing existing, I found it: in a book called Outsider Art.”

 

outsider-art-48outsider-art-3 

“The book was about art made by people from all walks of life, who didn’t think of themselves as artists, but were creating things because they thought they had to, rather than because they had been taught to. Although the book featured paintings and sculptures it was the photographs of unusual buildings and monuments that really caught my imagination. How could there be a gap between art and everyday life, if every day you lived inside the work of art you had created? This was exactly what I was looking for.”

 

 

Part One: FRANCE

Cocker visits each of these art environments. Visit the links to see their page on our SPACES Online Archive:



 Part Two: UNITED STATES 

Cocker visits each of these art environments. Visit the links to see their page on our SPACES Online Archive:

 

outsider-art-29outsider-art-58 

“I’d found much more than just a subject for an essay, I’d found something that I could really get excited about. And I vowed if I ever got the chance, I’d go and find more about these incredible places and the people who’d made them. Now almost a decade later that time has come.”

 

Part Three: INDIAN, MEXICO, BELGIUM, AND SWITZERLAND

Cocker visits each of these art environments. Visit the links to see their page on our SPACES Online Archive:

 

 We hope Jarvis Cocker’s enthusiasm rubs off, and you find yourself on your own “Journey!”

 

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

Posted in Preservation News, Threatened Environments

chomo-at-night-2009-l-danchin-the-church-of-the-poor-img3206

 

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

gaudi

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

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
Preservation News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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