Lost Gypsy Gallery / Curios and CoffeeBlair Somerville
About the Artist/Site
Located on a rather unobtrusive spot on New Zealand’s south coast, this gallery/theater/coffee house features the assembled sculptures and automata of craftsman and artist Blair Sommerville, who has been working on this site since 1999. A renowned tinkerer, many of his works are powered by water or can be wound up; they feature found objects of all shapes, sizes, and types, both natural and manmade. “I like working with things that have had a different life,” he says. He repurposes them into what he calls “fine acts of junk,” “rustic automata,” and “organic mechanics.” Most have a humorous twist or enough incongruity to make the visitor smile. Signage helps guide visitors through the garden; one reads, “There are many temptations in life. The button below is one.” Who know what it will do when it is pressed? Many of the gadgets require interaction from the visitor – turning a wheel, flicking a switch, plucking metal strings.
There are monsters and “useless tools” that do little or nothing; others that light up or make noise or move in unexpected ways. A fine craftsman, Sommerville very much enjoys sketching and designing the pieces, anticipating how they will function and then, ultimately, seeing if he was right; other times, he just “free styles” with what he has on hand, assembling components and seeing what might work. His tools are small, some rudimentary, and the electric ones run on solar power, as does everything else on his property. Some of his more elaborate pieces seem to reference the comic insanity of Rube Goldberg.
The Gallery is located in a converted old bus, painted green; entrance to the gallery is free, but a $5 charge also enables visitors to view the larger and even more extraordinary creations in the garden (no small children are allowed in this section), also known as the “theatre of sorts.” The site is open to the public November through April daily except Wednesdays, 10 am to 5 pm.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
3 Ovenden Street
Owaka, Otago, 9535 nz
Latitude/Longitude: -46.4510423 / 169.6604169
El Bolsón, Río Negro
Ward 4 Dalat City (Lam Dong Province) 67000, Gia Lai Province