July 04, 2014

Roméo Gérolami, Girouettes/Weathervanes

Many french communities have a street named after Jean Jaurès, a well known french politician, but probably only the avenue Jean Jaurès in Bléneau, France, can boast the presence of a site with kinetic (outsider) art as in above streetview (2013).

Life and works

Born in Italy, Roméo Gérolami (b. 1929), after world war II moved to France where his father had a job as a mason. Maybe he was in the masonry too, but anyhow he felt more attracted to a profession where he could give way to his technical skills and interests.

So Gérolami found a suitable employment in the automotive industry, where he had a job as a foreman. 

Living in an apartment in Paris, he would not have much room to install self-made kinetic contructs, although as far as I understand he decorated the living room with spiral-like constructs from the bearings of wheels.

However, once retired he and his wife moved to a house in Bléneau (Burgundy area) with sufficient outdoor space to install large kinetic constructs.

So from the mid-nineties on Gérolami has embellished his garden with a dozen of such constructs, installed on high poles.

His creations include small scenes of activities of daily life, such as cyclists pedalling on their bikes, and a carpenter sawing a piece of wood, but he also made airplanes, all items with movable parts driven by the wind.

Busy for hours in his workshop in the basement of his house, handling all kinds of discarded material, such as parts of old washers, Gérolami is typical what the French so eloquently call a bricoleur.

* Entry on the website of Art Insolite, with a short video by Jean Cristophe Humbert
* Article in the regional newspaper l'Yonne (July 13, 2012)

Roméo Gérolami
29 avenue Jean Jaurès
89220 Bléneau
can be seen from the street

June 18, 2014

Edmundas Vaiciulis, Puodų namas/The Pan House

pictures (june 2014) courtesy of Raija Kallioinen

Zagaré, a town with a history that goes back to the end of the twelfth century, is located in the north of Lithuania, near the frontier with Latvia. One of its features is an art environment commonly referred to as Puodų namas (The Pan House). And indeed: pots and pans galore....on the roof and on the walls.

Life and works *

The site has been created by Edmundas Vaiciulis. As so many people in the community, he has a nickname, which in his case is "Fly".

Born in 1959, after primary school he attended the Siauliu Politechnikumas to graduate as a mechanical engineer.

His first job as a mechanic in nearby Joniskis took only one week becasue his hairdo and footwear were not covered by his employer's taste.

He also was a driving school instructor, a job that was terminated when he and some others on the school's premises began a trade in empty bottles, this to the dismay of the owner of the driving school.

This may characterise Viaciulis as the man averse to conventions he is.

In an interview he said: "There is no order, no logic, neither in the physical, nor in the spiritual world. This goes for my world too. There are no reference points. Order is relative...."

A slightly unruly man, somewhat eccentric, pagan, who said from himself that he never grew up totally and never lost the child inside him (which in his view made him qualified to deal with kids when for some time he was working at Zagaré's special school).

A man with a great feeling for justice and democracy, Vaiciulis has been active in organizing civil action and he was an independent candidate for the community council.

But probably he is best known for the way he decorated his house and yard.

When in the early nineteen-nineties the Lithuanian national government introduced privatisation, Vaicilius could become owner of part of a house in the center of the town. He wanted to rebuild it, but the inhabitants of the other part of the house saw no benefit in such an undertaking.

So the house remained as it was, i.e. in terms of construction, because soon Vaicilius began placing pots and pans on the roof and attaching metal plates and other household attributes to the exterior front and side walls.

 front wall, along the street (2014)

Most of these probably over a thousand items have been collected by Vaicilius himself, but some have been offered by others who liked Vaicilius' decorative activities.

side wall, facing the garden (2014)

Another typical form of decoration includes animal skulls attached to a wall of a barn in the garden.

The garden also has a varied collection of iron items, such as household objects and machinery parts.....

Very appealing from a sculptural point of view are Vaiciulis' wooden sculptures, which also have a place in the garden.

A gifted self-taught sculptor, he transforms tree trunks into impersonations of archetypical persons. 

Some of his wooden sculptures are on display in Zagaré's public space.

Vaiciulis is favorably disposed towards groups and individuals who would like to visit his art environment. He has become accustomed to the interest and doesn't see this as something to make a fuss about.

However, he may tell his visitors apocryphal stories, just to check how vigilant and intelligent they are.

A slightly unruly artist, indeed.

Documentation/more pictures
* More pictures on Facebookpage Outsider Art Environments Europe

* I am indebted to Gintare Valuckyte from Lithuania, who assisted me in editing this post

Edmundas Vaiciulis
The Pan House
P. Cvirgos gatvé 33
can be visited on appointment

June 07, 2014

Francisco Subirá i Beltran, Sculpture garden

all pictures (2014) are screenshots from the video 

With its almost a hundred inhabitants the community of Vilarnadal in Catalonia, Spain, is rather small and apart from a private castle, uptill now the internet has no referrals to interesting sites in that village.

However, there is an interesting art environment in Vilarnadal, which, although its creator passed away in 2011, for a large part has been maintained and currently still can be seen from the street, as demonstrated in above picture.

view through the gate

Life and works

Francisco Subirá i Beltran (1924-2011) *, the author of the site, was born in a remote and isolated community in the north of Catalunya. In the early ninenteen thirties the family moved to Vilarnadal, north of Figueres. The father could work there as farmhand, assisting farmers in taking care of the cattle and herding sheep.

Life had tragic moments for young Francisco, a sister died at young age, his mother died from tuberculosis in the late ninenteen thirties and some years later a brother also died.

swimmer, on the enclosure wall

Subirá did his three years of military service in Girona, the provincial capital. Here he met his wife he married in 1951, when he had completed his military duties. Having lost a daughter who died being born prematurely, the couple remained childless.

Staying in the house in Vilarnadal he had inherited from his father, Subirá just as his father earned his living by managing a herd of sheep, a job he held for some forty years.

His rather ascetic and quite life was confined to provincial Vilarnadal, and holiday trips to Lourdes and Madrid may have been the only way to have more mundane experiences.

Once a pensioner, having sold all cattle, Subirá wanted something to do, preferably something that would make him work with his hands. After trying drawing, he came up to making sculptures, which pleased him and kept him active for the rest of his life.

sheep, on the enclosure wall

All together he has made some eighty creations, including a series of sculptures and bas-reliefs. The sculptures, stand alone creations and ensembles, were made by applying cement to frames of iron netting.

The creations are distributed over two plots, an area enclosed with a wall, opposite Subirá's house as in the first picture, and another plot further down the street, where Subirá originally had his studio.

Like other creators of art environments, Subirá's has depicted all kinds of animals, such as a lion, an owl, a turtle, a crocodile, various birds and so on. 

He also depicted flowers, stars, the sun, the moon....

The villagers expressed no concerns about Subirá's creative activitities. He was apparently a respected person.

ensemble of "sirenes" (mermaids)

Very interesting, in my opinion, are the sculpted ensembles he made, such as the Sirenes (mermaids), pictured above, centrally located in the walled garden.

The tallest mermaid holds up a nameplate with the Catalan colours and the four smaller mermaids represent the four provinces of Catalonia: Lleila, Girona, Barcelona and Tarragona.

Above couple is entitled La Parella, Eròtic, the erotic couple. It is not located in the walled garden opposite Subira's house, but in the yard further down the street. The erotic aspect just manifests itself in the touch of hands and the way of looking, adding genitals would have been too much according to Subirá.

Another ensemble in this yard down the street is above group of Els Petits (the little ones), a piedestal with two groups of six people, hands together, depicted as if dancing, and on top two people holding catalan flags.

"Els Castellers" (the castle builders)

Above pictured high rising sculpture, the talllest Subirá made,  located in the walled garden opposite the house, depicts a group of people making a human tower, a popular competitive activity at festivals in Catalonia.

The team members wear white trousers and a shirt with a specific color related to the city of origin of the team.

A rather impressive sculpture.

Future of the site

In 2005 Subirá and his wife decided to move to a residential home for older people near Figueres. Around 2008, to pay for the stay in that home, Subirá put the house in Vilarnadal for sale. The new owner promised to maintain the creations in the walled garden and so it happened !

The garden further down the street however will be inherited by a distant family member. and in recent years this site hasn't been maintained very well.

Francisco Subirá i Beltran passed away in 2011.

Video by Serflac (Youtube, 2'58", uploaded May 13, 2014)

* The site got a scholarly review in: Jo Farb Hernandez, Singular Spaces. From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, Seatlle (Raw Vision, SPACES, San José State University), 2013. ISBN 978-0-615-78565-3, pp 505-517

* The only available written source about this art environment is Jo Farb Hernandez' recent book Singular Spaces, so I am indebted to her for factual data. Evaluative interpretations are my responsibility 

Francisco Subirá i Beltran
17762 Vilarnadal, Girona, ES
can be seen from the street

May 21, 2014

Jules Damloup, La petite Afrique/Little Africa

pictures (may 2014) by Raija Kallioinen

Life and works

Jules Damloup (1898-1985) who lived in the community of Pithiviers in the Loiret area in France, embellished his garden with sculptures of african animals, such as the lion pictured above and the zebra below.

His art environment, La petite Afrique, is no longer extant. I suppose it was demolished in the ninenteen-eighties.

Some of his creations were rescued from demolishment by the Fabuloserie, the private outsider art museum in Dicy, France, established in 1983 by Alain Bourbonnais, where the lion and the zebra currently are showpieces.

The sculptures are in a wonderful condition, taking into account that they have been made at least over thirty years ago.

This is all I know....

.....about Damloup and his creative activities. 

The relevant french blogs/websites and the french books I own about outsider art and art environments do not provide additional factual information about the site, apart from Michel Ragon (Du côté de l'art brut, 1996) who reports that Damloup regularly visited Pierre Avezard's Manège.

Apart from publications on the Manège, until now the magnificent collection of the Fabuloserie has not yet been described systematically.

So initiatives to establish over time a documentation centre of art environments in Europe (as on the wish-list of the interest group of environments of the European Outsider Art Association) are very important.

Jules Damloup
La petite Afrique
Pithiviers, FR
site demolished

May 11, 2014

Louis Auffret, La campagne/The countryside

as published in Gazogène nr 21 (2000)

Louis Auffret's art environment in southern France, meanwhile no more extant, to my knowledge has only been described by one author: Marielle Magliozzi.

She did a thesis in which she studied the phenomenon of bricolage (DIY, home crafts) in relation with outsider art, using the art environments of Chomo, Bodan Litnianski, facteur Cheval, André Bindler, Robert Vasseur and Louis Auffret, the one in this post, as examples 

The (re-edited) thesis became available to the general public as Art Brut, architectures marginales. Un art du bricolage. Paris, 2008.

Life and works

Born in Bretagne in a family of farmers, Louis Auffret (1918-2006) after finishing his primary education held various jobs, to become around 1938 a sports instructor in the french army. He participated in the second world war and in the french war in former Indochina. His military service took him to continents like Africa and Asia, which may have influenced his world-view.

In 1953, having left the army, he settled in the community of Six-Fours-les-Plages on the mediteranean coast in southern France.  He married and the couple got a son, but due to a traffic accident his wife tragically died in 1957.

In the late fifties Auffret began decorating the exterior of his house, which in those years was located in a still quite and rural part of the community (Hence it's name La Campagne, the countryside).

His first creation was a bas relief in remembrance of the birth of his son, added to the exterior wall of the house, near the entrance. Using all kinds of left-over material, Auffret went on decorating the exterior of the property, untill it was abundantly covered with frescoes, mosaics and other adornments.

Thereafter Auffret has beeen active for over thirty years in transforming the garden into an art environment by constructing columns, arches and other assemblies, all  provided with ornaments, small sculptures, frescoes or drapings.

Marielle Magliozzi, who visited and interviewed Auffret in 1999, noted that the site consisted of a number of interrelated elements scattered around the grounds, such as the dwelling house itself, some cottages, and various customized (and abundantly decorated) pleasant places to enjoy the outdoors, such as an outdoor kitchen, a porched spot with a large oven, an outdoor shower......... 

The interrelation of these constructs was expressed in the corresponding ways of decorating and the use of contruction materials.

When Magliozzi did the interview, Auffrets son already was living in the main house and Auffret himself stayed in the cottage. In the interview Auffret gave evidence that he and his son had different opinions about the value of having a garden decorated with creative constructs.

At the time of the interview the main house already had been modernized by removing the decorations and as far as I know the decorative aspects of the garden have been removed in 2004, two years before Auffret died.

Currently, because of ongoing urbanization, the property is surrounded by houses and it's rural character is history.

Marielle Magliozzi, "La 'campagne' du Breton du Var", in: Gazogène nr 21 (2000) (In this article, upon which my post draws, Auffret is named "Père Louis", after his death in publications his full name would be used)
* Marielle Magliozzi, article in Raw Vision nr 49 (2004/2005)
* Marielle Magliozzi,  Art Brut, architectures marginales. Un art du bricolage.  Paris (l'Harmattan), 2008. -322 p.

Louis Auffret
La Campagne
Var FR
no longer extant

April 21, 2014

Domenico Brizi, Il grottino/ The small cave

Domenico Brizi, spring 2013
all pictures by Pavel Konečný

Piansano is a community in the Viterbo area of Italy with slightly over 2000 inhabitants.

Life and works

Domenico Brizi (b. 1925), who lives in this community, worked in agriculture and had a job in Rome, some 90 km south of Piansano.

He has a house in the centre of the community, but owns a vegetable garden at its outskirts.

The story says, that one day when he was working in his garden, Brizi was overcome by a big rainstorm which made him take refuge in the storage of his gardening tools.

This storage was kind of a cave with tuve walls. To kill time Brizi began making a decoration in a wall, resulting in a depiction of a donkey.

The story doesn't say in what year this happened, but I suppose it took place when Brizi was already retired, so probably in the late eighties, early nineties.

In any case, this event encouraged him to go on with creative activities, manifested in various ways.

He made contructs such as a small fountain, decorated with shells and blue enamel, equipped with a crocodile producing a stream of water and a mermaid enjoying this stream.

Sort of a little story..... an approach that also can be found in his multicolored frescoes: Bacchus pours wine, drunk by a beautiful lady....

Brizi has been making polychrome wooden sculptures too, as in above picture.

In the course of the years, the number of creations has greatly increased and the cave became crowded with his artworks. It's state however is fragile, because of dripping water and works on the nearby main road. 

Brizi, who some years ago became a widower, currently (2014) is in his late eighties and I have no information if he still receives visitors.

* Article (in Italian) on Canino.info, portale culturale della Tuscia (undated, around 2003?)
* Entry on website Costruttori di Babele (added around 2013, in Ialian and French)
* Entry on Facebook by Pavel Konečný (in english), sept 2013

Domenico Brizi
Il grottino
Piansano, Viterbo, IT

April 13, 2014

Kitty Harri, Kitty Harri's Sculpture Garden

Life demanded that Kitty Harri should live in many places in the world, supported herself in a variety of jobs, wrote novels (under the name Kitty Sewell) that have been translated into many languages, to ultimately find her destiny in making sculptures and creating an art environment.

sculpture in Portland stone entitled "the family at rest"

Life and works

Born in Sweden (in 1951 and enjoying a carefree childhood at a farm, at age thirteen Kitty Harri came to live with her parents in the spanish Canary Islands. She had to learn not only Spanish, but also German because she went to school at a German institute.

At age 18 Kitty followed her parents to Canada, where she lived in Toronto and Vancouver, studied law, married, had two children, naturalised as a Canadian, divorced, got a licence to be a Notary Public and finally went to live with her two children in a remote town in the Canadian sub-Arctic.

The arctic setting, far away from civilization, would provide the inspiration for her first novel Ice Trap.

Kitty met John, a doctor from England. They married and moved to the United Kingdom, where they settled in Wales. Kitty changed profession, re-training as a psychotherapist, working with the National Health Service.

After twelve years as a therapist, it was again time for a change. Kitty did a degree in applied sculpture and a part-time master's degree in creative writing.

She began making sculptures and had several exhibitions, but then her book Ice Trap was published, became an international best-seller, and opened a new exciting future as a  novelist.

Another divorce followed and Kitty has now come full circle and lives in Spain on two acres of mountain paradise in the Costa Tropical region in the province of Granada.

Creating an art environment

Over the last ten years, Kitty has worked steadily on her sculptures and placed them on her land. At the same time she took interest in horticulture and planted many exotic trees on her land which has amazing views over the neighbouring mountain ranges and the sea to the south.

the magic urn

Recently she has slowed down her whirlwind ten-year writing career, and begun to devote herself almost exclusively to sculpting and transforming her land into an exotic garden and art environment.

The garden currently (2014) has some thirty creations, such as stone and wood carvings, bronzes, wall and other mosaics, metal sculptures and murals.

mural and high relief on an outside  wall

Kitty so far has worked mainly in stone and wood, but she has recently begun to work with other types of material, such as metal, glass and concrete.

She has just started to invite other sculptors from anywhere in the world to come and stay for two or three weeks as "artist in residence", to make a piece of work for her sculpture garden and also teach her new techniques, exchange ideas and create inspiration all around.

Sculptors interested in this idea can bring their family for a holiday and stay free in a lovely little house in the villlage of Olivar, 4 km from the sculpture garden.

recent picture (2014) of Kitty in her new capacity

Kitty's Sculpture Garden can be visited by appointment by any sized group, preferably a minimum of four people.

Documentation, more pictures
* Kitty Sewell's website, about her books and with some pictures of her art
* Facebookpage:  Kitty Harri's Sculpture Garden

Kitty Harri
Kitty Harri's Sculpture Garden
Jete, Granada, Spain
visits on appointment (see her FB page)
a donation is helpful towards Kitty's time and materials