The latest from SPACES
SPACES has had a busy and productive summer across two continents.
Our archivist, Stacy Mueller, worked with Betsy Vaca, a graduate student in Art History at San José State University, to continue our ambitious project of digitizing as much as possible from SPACES’s archives—documents from our vertical files as well as images of all formats from our photographic collections—in order to increase online accessibility for those who are unable to physically visit our offices. Since May, Stacy and Betsy have scanned 1200 images as well as 1100 documents from our vertical files, and have posted 90 new art environment pages. We now have 4400 images on the website. We’re not even close to halfway through, however, so this project will continue as one of our major priorities.
Over the last few months we have received some wonderful donations to the archives, each of which is helping us to round out our holdings. The most impressive recent gift has been approximately 2400 slides from Ron Gasowski, an early researcher in the field of art environments. Ron, a sculptor and long-time art professor at Arizona State University-Tempe, began photographing these materials in the 1960s, and continues to the present. In an approach similar to that taken by SPACES’s founder, Seymour Rosen, Ron turned his discerning eye toward all kinds of self-taught art and vernacular expressions in addition to his concentration on art environments: the slides include funky mailboxes, decorated motor vehicles, yards with whirligigs and other ornaments, bottle trees, street and small business signage, the Day of the Dead, general objects of folk art, and all manner of “Roadside Americana.” Art environments include a range of well-known as well as unknown sites across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, as well as in Europe: these include the works of Fred Smith, Kenny Hill, Herman Rusch, Thomas Battersby Childs, Sabato Rodia, Driftwood Charlie, Ed Manley, David Nielsen, Hap Gern, Tressa Prisbrey, George Sweeney, Robert Vaughn and M.T. Ratcliff, Leonard Knight, Henry Warren, S.P. Dinsmoor, Mathias Wernerus, Nick Englebert, and many, many more; George Plumb in Canada, Anato McLaughlin in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; and Ferdinand Cheval’s Palais Idéal, Robert Tatin’s Étrange Musée, and Raymond Isidor’s Picassiette in France are also among the sites represented in Ron’s photographs. It will take many months before all of these slides are digitized and posted online, but we are delighted to have this wide-ranging and deep collection to share with the public, and profusely thank Ron for his generous donation.
On the other side of the “pond,” I spent much time over the summer correcting the galleys for my book/CD on Spanish art environments; the final count is 1159 pages (596 in the book and 563 in the CD) with 1,306 photos in the book and 4,179 in the CD, along with 44 site plans, most of which were drawn by my husband Sam. Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, is at the printer and the advance copies will be received just before October 1, the date of the opening of the accompanying exhibition at SJSU. They should all be received and available for general purchase by December 1. This groundbreaking book features introductory remarks by Laurent Danchin, the French editor of Raw Vision, and Roger Cardinal, renowned researcher in the field and author of the 1972 book Outsider Art.
I also found time to do a bit of fieldwork this past summer as well: I re-visited the sites of Josep Sala (Borrassà), José Giralt (Llers), Joan Sala Fàbrega (Sant Joan les Fonts), Joaquim Gifreu (Figueres) and, of course, Josep Pujiula. I also had several meetings, with community members who are working to save what remains of Pujiula’s concrete/steel works, and also with the government officials who are poised on the other side of this movement: representatives from the state departments of water, the environment, and culture, as well as the village mayor. I think that they are actually trying to find a way to save what remains of the site, because they have realized that Pujiula now has sufficient visibility that forcing him to demolish the site may have political repercussions for them.
Quite by chance, I also “discovered” an art environment in Viols le Fort in southern France; images have been posted on our website.
SPACES’s staff and Board have been involved in numerous other projects as well, including working with several students on their undergraduate or graduate projects, supplying images to various museums, magazines, and online journals, and more. Watch for more information on this and other programming in coming months.
~Jo Farb Hernández