Dispatch from the Field: Jo Farb Hernández in Spain
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Farb Hernández
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