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Upcoming Hearing on Historically Designating the Painted Bride Arts Center

Posted in Gardens, Preservation News, Take Action

 

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens seeks to protect important mosaic mural.

 

OLD CITY, PHILADELPHIA:  When it was announced in December that the Painted Bride Art Center was going up for sale, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) immediately recognized the risk that this posed to the roughly 7,000 square foot mosaic mural on the building’s façade, and is now working to protect this mural through historical designation. A hearing to discuss this historical designation takes place at 9:30 AM on Wednesday, June 20, at 1515 Arch Street.

 

paintedbridewalleditThe Painted Bride Arts Center

 

PMG’s mission is to preserve, interpret, and provide access to Isaiah Zagar’s unique mosaic environment and his public murals. Zagar’s mural at the Painted Bride, located at 230-36 Vine Street, is one of his most iconic works. In the early 1990s Zagar was invited to work on the façade of the Painted Bride building, formerly the Eastern Elevator Co. It provided one of the largest canvases to date for Zagar’s work and was the first time he covered the entire length and height of a building with mosaic mural.

 

In his 1993 article in the Philadelphia Daily News, Ron Avery wrote: “From sidewalk to roof every inch is colorfully painted and decorated in wild, imaginative detail. There are swirls, circles, seashells, Chinese writing and bits and pieces of ceramic birds, butterflies, flowers, human figures, and ceramic feet. ‘Isaiah took a simple industrial building with no character and made it fascinating,’ says Gerry Givnish, executive director of the Painted Bride. ‘Zagar’s weird art has given the Painted Bride near landmark status.’”

 

zagarIsaiah Zager with one of his colorful mosaics

 

PMG’s Executive Director Emily Smith remarks, “As community members, I think it’s important to fight for the character of our city. The history and culture of our streets is what makes Philadelphia such a special place to live. What does it mean if we don’t try to keep our art and the history behind it from being destroyed?”

If the application for historical designation is accepted it would protect the outside of the Painted Bride building from being altered or demolished. PMG has also made the commitment to caretake the mosaic mural in perpetuity.

PMG encourages the public to read the application, and if they support it, voice their opinion and attend the hearing on June 20.

CONTACT:

Emily Smith | 215-733-0390 ext. 113 | esmith@phillymagicgardens.org

_________________________________________________

ABOUT PHILADELPHIA’S MAGIC GARDENS 

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is a nonprofit visionary art environment and community arts center located in Isaiah Zagar’s largest public artwork.

Spanning half a block on Philadelphia’s famous South Street, the museum includes an immersive outdoor art installation and indoor galleries. Zagar created the space using nontraditional materials such as folk art statues, found objects, bicycle wheels, colorful glass bottles, hand-made tiles, and thousands of glittering mirrors. The site is enveloped in visual anecdotes and personal narratives that refer to Zagar’s life, family, and community, as well as references from the wider world such as influential art history figures and other visionary artists and environments.

PMG is a unique Philadelphia destination that inspires creativity and community engagement by providing educational opportunities and diverse public programming to thousands of visitors each year. For more information, visit www.phillymagicgardens.org.

 

See more of Isaiah Zager’s Magic Gardens on SPACES!

Laura Pope Forester home sees bright future ahead!

Posted in Gardens, Preservation News

 

fullsizeoutput128May 1990

The current owners of the Laura Pope Forester home, also known as Mrs. Pope’s Museum and Garden or Pope Store Museum, have been hard at work with the goal of refurbishing the site’s gardens, sculptures, murals, and other works of art. Laura Pope (1900-1953) had built an extraordinary garden around her antebellum rural residence in Ochlocknee, GA, which included over 200 figurative sculptures. Most were three-dimensional, but others were bas-reliefs or busts set into or topping the walls and the elaborate arched gateway on the periphery of her property. She built her works up on a metal infrastructure composed of found objects such as scrap iron and tin cans, later covering them with concrete. 

 

Her subjects, mostly “outstanding individuals of fact and fancy” and mostly female, focused on a diverse and wide-ranging group of significant or iconic women, but there were also figures from tales and legend. Other works included a series of seven faces representing the world’s major religions; thought to have been taken from plaster casts, it has been suggested that they were molded from her friends.

 

fullsizeoutput126May 1990

After Laura Pope’s death, the family maintained the property without making significant changes, and for some time it remained a local tourist attraction and roadside curiosity that was supported, in part, by a civic club and Pelham’s Chamber of Commerce. However, in 1974, her only surviving son sold the site to a mill owner from the nearby town of Meigs. He thought that the sculptures had “passed their days of being useful,” so he dismantled and destroyed most of the freestanding works, leaving only some dozen that had been built into the walls. Most of the rest were destroyed in 1981, yet by 1990 several still remained within the garden walls.

 

By the time the current owners purchased the property and moved on-site in July 2017, the entire property had been severely neglected. Since then, considerable effort and progress has been made to rebrand both the property and Laura Pope Forester’s work, as well as to restore the structure of the building. A new nonprofit corporation – Pope’s Museum Preservation, Inc.- has been set up, and they are going through the process of preparing an application to add the home and grounds to the National and Georgia Registers of Historic Places under the categories of art, recreation and leisure, and women’s history. 

 

fullsizeoutput124Image from Popes Museum Preservation

You can follow along with the progress of the restoration through their newly launched website, which includes a blog with behind-the-scenes images of daily discoveries made while working on the site. You can learn more about Laura Pope Forester at SPACES here and see the Pope Store Museum website here.

The Sculpture Park and Garden of Veijo Rönkkönen

Posted in Gardens

 

veijo-1Used with the permission of the photographer, Minna Haveri

Nestled in remote Eastern Finland in Parikkala, near the Russian border, is a delight that spans history and culture. As you make your way down the driveway, you are greeted by figures flanking the road, an array of statues that have been likened to the cover of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” record, a frozen carnival that flourishes in the greenery of summer and stands tall in the cold, Finnish winters. Like many outdoor sculptures constructed in cold, seasonal climates, these are largely painted concrete, occasionally decked with embellishments. Painting the concrete helps to protect it from the elements. 

 

 

veijo-driveway-1Used with the permission of the photographer, Minna Haveri

Veijo Rönkkönen (1944- 2010) was 16 years old when he began a job as a press worker in a paper mill in Parikkala, a job he held for 41 years. With his first pay check, he purchased ten apple tree seedlings and a bag of concrete—the beginnings of an extensive sculpture park and garden he would build around his family home. He was known to be guarded in his younger years as he began his sculptural endeavor. After he completed his first statue in 1961 and the years wore on, his reputation as a hermit persisted even as his reserve dropped away to reveal and warm and humorous personality. This friendly demeanor is reflected in most, if not all, of his statues. As visual and performance artist and art critic Erkki Pirtola noted in Itse Tehty Elamam “Each figure has the same supernatural smile, enhanced by real false teeth, which also make the smile all the more biting.” This smile is seen in the parade of children led by a proud drummer boy, in the choir of Greek youths, and in the figures that inhabit the garden, reflecting archetypes of ethnic characteristics and exotic cultures. 

 

In a move right out of Dorian Grey, Rönkkönen is perhaps known best for what he calls his “monument for the memory of is young body.” In the park of nearly 500 works, 255 are self-portrait-like characters in different yoga positions— each on the quest for unity and correct form. Some now gather moss in an act of ultimate meditation and dedication amidst torturing asanas. Far from Nek Chand’s yoga-familiar Rock Garden of Chandigarh in India, this ode from a self-taught yogi in Finland is surprising and unexpected. Considered to be the spiritual center of Rönkkönen’s endeavor, it certainly is a stunning climax. 

 

veijo-yoga-1Used with the permission of the photographer, Minna Haveri

 

On the occasions when he had been asked to show his work beyond the park, Veijo Rönkkönen always insisted to ask the statues first; however, they apparently never wanted to travel. The plan he shared before his death was to bury the park in sand and leave it in silence for one thousand years, like the terra-cotta armies of China. After he passed in 2010, his family, in an unusually amiable and constructive move, realized the importance of securing and saving the park’s work and future. Rather than covering it all in sand, the park was purchased by Finnish businessman and art lover Reijo Uusitalo in collaboration with Finland’s ITE Art Association, and is being protected and preserved for future generations.

 

 See more here: Veijo Rönkkönen

Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden Undergoes Restoration

Posted in Gardens, Preservation News, Self-Taught Arts in the News

 

 

Gabriel Albert’s garden in Nantillé  (Charente-Maritime), after 25 years of being largely unoccupied, has experienced a swell of visitors since the recent launch of a regional restoration project. It had been unoccupied, that is, with the exception of over 400 resident statues!  

 

free-entry-manThis statue, recently cleaned, greets visitors at the entrance of the garden.

As a youngster, Gabriel Albert dreamt of becoming a sculptor, but became a carpenter to earn a regular livelihood. It was not until he retired in 1969 at age 65 that he was finally able to give way to his passion.

Albert began making figurative sculptures and busts, applying cement to iron frame infrastructures. Most of the 420 sculptures he eventually created, which he placed in the garden surrounding his hand-built house, represented anonymous people going about everyday tasks. However, some depicted political personalities, celebrities, and characters from fairy tales, which he based on photographs he saw in magazines.

 

1Concrete is porous, which makes it an ideal place for moss and lichen to grow. Conservators often use biocide to combat this common ailment of art environments.

 

nantille

 

Around 1989 Albert became ill and decided to reserve his energy to maintain the site rather than to create new works. Before his death, he sold all of his work for a symbolic amount to the community of Nantillé. In spring 2011, an association of friends actively promoted protected status for the garden, so that it could be opened for visits by the general public. Now, in 2017, preservationists, using brushes and other small tools, are carefully scraping lichen and moss from the sculptures in the first phase of conservation. Sculptures with more extensive damage have been fitted with frames to protect their fragile limbs until the conservationists can explore options and decide on long term solutions to strengthen the concrete forms. As of this writing, fifty-nine figures have been taken to an offsite workshop for conservation. 

 

biocide-half-n-halfHalf of the statue has undergone biocide treatment, which shows the effectiveness of removing microorganisms that have nestled in the concrete.

 

The timeline for this project is November 2017 to June 2018. The most urgent task was to pack, transport and shelter those fifty-nine statues at risk, but emergency measures will also include filling cracks in the statues and the restoration of Gabriel Albert’s studio. The first stage of restoration, estimated to cost 252,602€, is 100% financed by the Region of New Aquitaine under the scientific and technical control of the Regional Conservation of Historical Monuments (Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs [DRAC] New Aquitaine - Ministry of Culture). They have done a truly fantastic job of documenting the history of the site and will surely continue the good work through conservation. 

 

4Splints, polyurethane foam, and plastic film help keep damaged limbs in check.

 

supported bustsAfter supporting the ground beneath and creating a protective structure, these busts that were formerly leaning are safe.

 

Learn more about the Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden on SPACES here

 

All images: © Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine, General Inventory of Cultural Heritage. Christian Rome, 2017. 

Laura Pope Forrester Home + Art Environment on the Market

Posted in Gardens, Threatened Environments

 

A guest post by Ginger Cook of Deep Fried Kudzu, originally seen here.

ga708forresterborrelli008-environmentslideenlarge-1024-1024

 

I was contacted a few months ago by a UGA faculty member for permission to use some of my photographs of the Laura Pope Forrester home in Ochlocknee, Georgia (which I granted) in paperwork to add it as a “Places in Peril” with the National Trust of Historic Preservation.


An entry for Laura Pope Forrester (they spell her surname differently, as it most often appears ‘Laura Pope Forester’) appears in the New Georgia Encyclopedia for her work as a self-taught artist in Ochlocknee who “created one of the state’s first outdoor art environments during the 1940s and 1950s. Her concrete figures, depicting such historical and literary personages as Nancy Hart and Scarlett O’Hara, came to be known as “Mrs. Pope’s Museum.”“

The AP reported on the site in 1961:
One of the most unique museums in the nation, containing more than 200 statues hand-carved by a Mitchell County woman…

Mrs. Forester’s inventiveness was almost as incredible as her talent.  Besides using scrap iron from junkyards, discarded tin cans and other waste material as braces for her statues, she painted the figures with liquids of many flowers and brightly colored berries…

…The sculptress, who created her first statue in 1900, died in 1953, at the Pope mansion in which she was born.  The museum is sponsored by a civic club and the Chamber of Commerce.

Two hundred life-size statues…plus she painted, including painting directly on her home.  In the early ’80s, the owner of the house reportedly had the statues destroyed in fewer than 48 hours.  A witness to what was left later records: “I remember going out behind the house and seeing just piles of faces and hands and such…”  

The author of ‘A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude’ includes a quote from the owner who arranged for the destruction as saying, “They had done passed their days of bein’ useful. So we’ve taken down just about all of ‘em.”

The author writes:
Based on the evidence that remains, this is one of the worst pieces of unconscious vandalism that one has ever heard of. How could the museums and historical societies and university art departments and collectors of the state of Georgia — or just local citizens with eyes in their heads — have allowed this destruction to take place?
—-


The home’s been on the market for a few months, and the price has been lowered to $153k. The photographs on the realtor.com listing don’t show the artwork out front, and doesn’t make any notation about it. Hopes are to have the site preserved, as some of the previous owners destroyed statuary. 

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.



Josep Pujiula's art environment threatened

Posted in Found Objects, Gardens, SPACES News, Threatened Environments

img2129As many of you know, for 45 years Josep Pujiula i Vila has been building one of the  most spectacular examples of public art in the world. Completely self-taught, he began building for his own enjoyment, yet has come to delight in sharing his work with others. At the height of its existence, his constructions—which were primarily created out of the flexible saplings that he gathered from the nearby river—included eight towers, some approaching 100 feet (30 meters) high, along with a labyrinth that snaked over the landscape over a mile (1.6 km) in length. It was a joyous work of art that was an inspiration to its thousands of international visitors each year, and it has been featured in newspapers, magazines, books, and television programs internationally.

 24-eastern-side-of-labyrinth

I have been studying and documenting Pujiula’s work since 2000. I have published numerous articles about him, and I also featured him in my book “Forms of Tradition in Contemporary Spain,” produced a DVD about his work, and have lectured on him widely in the US, France, Spain, and Italy. He is a dedicated, passionate artist who is involved 24/7 with his work, and although he works improvisationally, having had no training in art, architecture, nor engineering, he has been able to build marvels that have inspired all who have visited them.

 

Yet although Pujiula has asked nothing of anyone but to be left alone to make his art, he has been consistently targeted by the local authorities, who are threatened by his work, as it neither complies with local building codes nor with what this conservative community tucked into the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees understands as “Art.” Three times they have forced him to tear it down—citing fear of fire, concern for public safety, proximity to electrical wires and the freeway. Each time Pujiula has complied but, unable to stop working, he has always started up again. He is the quintessential irrepressible artist whose work has become his life.

 

70-josep15After the second demolition, Pujiula began to work in concrete and steel, using found objects to create numerous sculptures as well as a lyrical cascading fountain, taking advantage of the runoff from a huge drainage pipe installed underneath the nearby freeway. These concrete constructions do not bring with them the same kinds of issues as the wooden towers and labyrinth did: they will not burn, they are not impinging on electrical towers nor the freeway, and, as they follow the slope of the ground, they do not tempt visitors to climb to the heights, so the possibility for public endangerment is low. Yet, although the local authorities had originally indicated that he could retain this portion of his artwork, and could continue to work, they have just changed their minds, and have mandated its demolition as well. Immediately.

 

Works of public art created by self-taught artists are often in jeopardy, but in this case, we can do something about it. I ask your help to sign a petition that will simply ask the local mayor to allow this artist to continue to make his art. At 75 years old, he is breaking no laws and inciting no danger; rather, he is bringing enjoyment to young and old with his creativity and humor. Help us convince the mayor of Argelaguer (population 424) to reverse his edict of destruction, and allow Pujiula to continue to create an art environment that will be remembered and enjoyed for long after he is gone.

 

Click here to sign the petition; you’ll only need to give your name, email, and country of origin:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Save_one_of_the_worlds_great_art_environments/?criVneb

 

Many thanks!!

jo



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Highlights

Kohler Foundation seeks Preservation Coordinator
job opportunities, Preservation News

UPDATE! Save Nashville artist William Edmondson's homesite!
Preservation News, Self-Taught Arts in the News, Take Action, Threatened Environments

Save Nashville artist William Edmondson's homesite!
Preservation News, Take Action, Threatened Environments

Upcoming Hearing on Historically Designating the Painted Bride Arts Center
Gardens, Preservation News, Take Action

Sign petition to save Justo Gallego's Cathedral!
Religious, Devotional & Spiritual, Take Action, Threatened Environments

Raise your voice in support of Philadelphia's Painted Bride!
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Association des Amis de Chomo unveils new website

Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden Undergoes Restoration
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Take Action, Threatened Environments

Conservator-in-Residence Position, Hartman Rock Garden - Ohio
Preservation News

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, Instagram, or Twitter and tag #spacesarchives 

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces