Photographer, cultural advocate, and SPACES founder Seymour Rosen is well-known within the world of art environments for his dogged determination to protect place- and life-specific works of art and expand their recognition as culturally and creatively significant sites. Rosen first visited the Watts Towers in 1952 – the very beginning of his photography career – and his subsequent dedication to art environments continued throughout his life. However, Rosen’s appreciation of cultural production was expansive and included many more forms of human expression – from art cars and existential messages left under overpasses to storefront churches and intricately woven baked goods.
SPACES was recently able to speak with Allie Light of Light-Saraf Films, the creators of the widely beloved series of films on self-taught artists called Visions of Paradise featuring the work of Calvin and Ruby Black, Harry Lieberman, Tressa Prisbrey, Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder, and Minnie Evans. Light and her partner Irving Saraf (who passed away in 2012) went on to create many more films, including In the Shadow of the Stars which earned them the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1991. Light has served on the Media Advisory Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She lives in San Francisco.
SPACES is excited to share this guest post from Jordan Quant – a recent graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and recipient of the Roads Scholarship for Research and Travel. Jordan Quant is an artist from Alpharetta, Georgia, and Chicago, Illinois, and recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work is grounded in garment design, with emphasis on fabric treatments and printmaking processes. Jordan expands garment making techniques to create soft sculptures that straddle definitions of functional furniture and wearable objects. In addition to sculpture making, she is invested in studying and creating choreographic notation, dancing, and learning about her family through cooking.
Built from 1921 to 1954 by Italian immigrant Sabato (Simon) Rodia, the Watts Towers are made of concrete, bottles, cups, glass, tile, shells, and steel. After nearly 100 years, the art environment has experienced numerous rounds of conservation – the most recent and ambitious by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) with the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs. This project is a crucial effort to manage day-to-day maintenance and develop a comprehensive plan for the long-term preservation of the Towers. We're excited to share some insights from Lily Doan, Associate Conservator at LACMA about the ongoing project!
Several years ago, while living in Dubuque, Iowa, I stumbled upon a small and very beautiful handmade shrine, about a foot tall, in a Goodwill thrift store. This piece of art became one of my most treasured possessions, but I could not find any information about its origins.
International Artifacts continues to conserve M.T. Liggett’s totems, despite the 100+ degree heat. While Beth Wiza, Preservation Coordinator at Kohler Foundation, was on site, the team installed four conserved pieces, including the snowman-like piece (untitled, November 14, 1994) in the photographs. Conservation on the pieces includes paint restoration, stabilization, re-attachment of damaged parts through welding, treatment to protect the art from the elements, and more.
Art environment builders create works that encompass their entire homes, yards, and even beyond. But what happens when the creator passes away, moves, or loses control of the property? Many times, the in-situ site is dismantled, the original context lost forever. Any remaining works are then acquired by a gallery or museum collection and, in some unfortunate cases, discarded. As Lisa Stone notes “Like the mainstream historic preservation field, the history of the preservation of art environments is replete with heated political struggles, debates over methodologies, funding obstacles, ruinous “acts of God,” marvels of individual commitment and great collaboration, and the challenges of ongoing preservation.” How can you help? Other than financially, these environments thrive on community support. In theory, city officials are beholden to their citizens, and a vocal positive community opinion can make all the difference.
SPACES is thrilled to announce the acquisition of artist, curator, and educator Gregg Blasdel’s photography collection and archive resulting from his longstanding commitment to the study of art environments.
Almost everyone who knows art environments knows Lisa Stone. Whether through her (and for a long time, Jim Zanzi's) unparalleled class Better Homes & Gardens at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago or her steadfast commitment to the preservation and interpretation of art environments around the world, many who know Lisa have been swiftly convinced that this is the place to be. You will typically find her juggling a million projects–from curating exhibitions to hands-on conservation work, but she always makes time to generously share the vast knowledge she's collected throughout the years, including playing a large role in the creation of the original SPACES website during her tenure on the board. We're so grateful for her continued support of SPACES, and we're thrilled to share this interview with you in hopes of recognizing her extensive contributions to the field of art environments.
The open road, windows down, face mask in your pocket (2020, right?) - you're going on a road trip! But where are you headed? No matter where you are in the world, there are art environments to visit and discover. We've picked a few around the United States for you to add to your list and paired some regionally-related podcasts to enjoy while you're on your way, even if it's only to the grocery store for your essentials and not an art environment.