April 20, 2015

Gérard Hansotte, Le zoo de la Barguillère/The Barguillère zoo

The house pictured above, located in the small community of Saint-Pierre-de-Rivière -some 700 inhabitants- south of Toulouse, France, was single-handedly built and decorated by its owner.

The house is attractively decorated indeed, but a passer-by could be most most impressed by the garden around, which has a variety of sculpted animals, kind of a zoo, one might say...

People living around named it the Barguillère zoo, after the name of a regional valley through which the river Arget flows.

Life and works

This is Gérard Hansotte's art environment. Born in 1944, he would mainly work as a mason. 

When he retired in 1997, he began making sculptures of animals from concrete and river pebbles, which he painted with colourful, weatherproof paint. Some of these sculptures are really lifesize, as the examples of a three meters high dinosaur, a giraffe and an elephant in below pictures show.

Hansotte made the sculpture of the dinosaur at the request of his grandson, who owned a miniature version.

The garden currently has a large variety of sculptures of animals, such as a mammoth, a crocodile, an ostrich, wild boars, but also dogs, deer, sheep, snakes and other smaller animals.

Hansotte only made two sculptures of people, one that depicts himself, as in the picture below,

and another one, depicting a prehistoric discovery made in 1971 in the french Pyrenees: the Tautavel Man, as in the picture below.

* article in french journal La Dépeche, january 20, 1999

Gérard Hansotte
Le zoo de la Barguillère
lieu-dit Peyrelade
Saint Pierre de Rivière
09000 Ariège, FR
visits on appointment

April 14, 2015

An annotated bibliography added to this blog

This weblog includes a number of pages. A recent addition is a page in which an annotated bibliography of books about art environments is listed.

It's a selective list in which undoubtedly my personal preferences are reflected.

By ordening it chronologicallyit one can see how the attention paid to art environments evolved over the years. It also shows that afer initially interest in art environments was a french affair, gradually also in other countries, such as Finland, Italy and Spain interest in these sites arose.  

April 03, 2015

Serafino Arienti, Il giardino delle meraviglie/The garden of wonders

 pictures are stills from the Big as Life movie 
(see documentation),
published here in agreement with Cristina Crippi

Seregno is a city in the north of Italy with some 44.000 inhabitants, located around twenty kilometers above Milan. It's an old city with some interesting sights, including for lovers of art environments Serafino Arienti's sculpture garden.

Life and works

Arienti (b. 1935) at the age of twelve began working in a factory that produces tools.

Being retired, in 2000, just to have something to do he began making small sculptures from steel. Maybe because of his job in the factory he had some experience with the processing of iron and steel, but with regard to creating sculptures he had no training at all.

Once begun, Arienti couldn't stop and currently the garden in front of his house has a wonderful collection of sculptures made from sheet metal, mainly stainless steel, which portray animals such as geese, storks, pelicans, kangaroos, ostriches and flamingos, quite a zoo in the midst of town.

He derives his examples from pictures in magazines and books.

A specific kinetic element in the garden is a pole topped with a variety of creations representing birds and other items, which move and rotate in the wind.

As above picture of a bird shows, the sculptures may consist of many small parts, like feathers of a bird or scales of a fish, and these are cut by Arienti piece by piece from sheet metal and knocked into shape. Cristina Crippi's movie (see documentation) pays special attention to this handicraft.

* Cristina Crippi, movie Big as Life,  Milano, Scuola di Cinema e Televisisone, 2013 -29'32", available on Vimeo. (Sequencies about Arienti from 14'27" till 18'20")

Serafino Arienti
Il gardino delle meraviglie
on the corner of the Via Ripamonti
and the Viale Europa
Seregno, IT
can be seen from the street

March 20, 2015

Olavi Laiho, Sculpture garden

this picture and the next one by Minna Haveri

Jurva is a community of some 4500 inhabitants in the south-west of Finland in the Southern Ostrobothnia region.

Life and works

Olavi Laiho * (b. 1951), an inhabitant of this community, has transformed the area around his house into a sculpture garden, as above picture by Minna Haveri shows.

Already as a youngster Laiho felt attracted to sculpting and he liked carving a bear or other animals from a piece of wood, just using a knife. His parents however would have none of these creative efforts. From their political point of view they considered this as bourgeois and thus an eventual professional artistic career of Laiho was stifled.

He became a carpenter and settled himself in Jurva, where he bought a house in a wooded part of the community.

In his spare time he began making sculptures made from concrete or carved out of wood, which he displayed in the garden around his house.

Inspired by pictures in illustrated magazines, Laiho's sculptures are rather realistic, impersonating characters such as Charly Chaplin, a giant bear, a peasant woman milking a cow, men playing an accordion and celebrities, such as Linda Lampenius (Linda Brava), a famous Finnish violinist and model (pictured above sitting on a horse and playing the violin).

As far as I could ascertain, Laiho's art environment untill now has not raised much publicity in Finland (the internet just has a couple of referrals).

His work however has been exposed in the major exhibition In Another World,  Kiasma museum, Helsinki, 2005).

* Erkki Pirtola "Olavi Laiho", in Seppo Knuuttila (Ed), ITE-Art in Finland, Helsinki (Maahenki), 2011, p 44-47
* Entry on the website ITE-net (an abridged version of the above article by Erkki Pirtola)
* note: to my knowledge the only text on the internet about Laiho's art environment is the entry on the website ITE-net, so I wish to report that this post is based upon Pirtola's article

Olavi Laiho
Sculpture garden
Jurva, Southern Ostrobothnia, Finland
no info available about options to visit the site

March 02, 2015

Girolamo Ricci, I santuari in pietra/The shrines of stone

view from the road
click to enlarge

Girolamo Ricci (b. 1931) *, a retired farmer who lives in the small community of Pievelunga, a hamlet of Parrano (Umbria, Italy), in the late nineteen-eighthies decided to create a sanctuary in honor of Our Lady, thanking her for the many times she had shielded him from making accidents with his tractor.

Once begun, he could not stop and so gradually an art environment came into being located in the outside space near his house, separated from the road by an iron-wired fence.

this picture and the next one by Costruttori di Babele

Ricci created a lot of sculptures from wood, stone or concrete, which he displayed in that outside space, which runs down along a rather steep slope.

Part of the art environment has been covered by a simple wooden shed, but in general the site is an outdoor event.

Ricci's sculptures represent various male and female personalities, full-length or as a torso, rather often appearing as a duo. 

the site as seen from below, the road is 
upper right, in the backgrond left the living house 

Later on, after his wife Liliane died, Ricci also transformed the part of the garden in front of the living house into an art environment,  rearranging it in the form of a spiral with various colorful elements.

this picture and the next one by Pavel Konečný

Ricci has also been active in making paintings, working on board and tiles, and he also decorated exterior and interior walls of the living house with frescoes and wooden items.

In these paintings the idea returns to represent people as a duo.

facade of the living house around 2011, 
on the corner of the street,
with decorations, as seen from the road

* Article on the Costruttori di Babele website
* Series of pictures on Facebook by Pavel Konečný
* Giulia Pettinari, "I santuari in pietra di Girolamo Ricci", in: Rivista Osservatorio Outsider Art, nr 8 (oct 2014), pp. 58-68
* note:
to my knowledge the article in the Costruttori di Babele website is the only one about this artist on the internet, so I wish to report that this post is based upon the information in that article

Girolamo Ricci
I santuari in pietra
7 Localitá Pievelunga
Parrano, Umbria, Italy
can be seen from the street
(visitable when the owner is present)

February 03, 2015

Erika Strohnerová, Miniature village scenes

Krahule is a community of some 200 inhabitants in Slovakia. Historically the community has a german minority and it is the only one in the country where German is an official language.

Miniature village scenes

In German the village is called Blaufuss, as one can see demonstrated by the name of the station on the picture below.

It is a miniature construction of course. However it is not a replica, since Krahule has no station. It is a fantasy structure, originated in the imagination of Erika Strohnerová (b. 1979).

In 2005 she made her first miniature building, a wooden castle as in the picture below. She told a regional newspaper that she had no special intention in making this castle, it was just a spontaneous action, perhaps inflenced by the books and films about Harry Potter.....

Anyhow, gradually new miniature wooden buildings were realized and added to the site.

Erika Strohnerová by profession makes clothing and creating replicas is hobby, limited to Saturdays and Sundays.

The miniature village currently includes a mill, a church, houses, a train and various decorative smaller items.

The neighbours and the village children appreciate the site, just as tourists do (Krahule is a skiing resort)

Article (june 2014) in regional newspaper (digital edition) Ziar.dnes24, with a series of pictures
Article on Facebook (jan 2015) with a lot of pictures by Pavel Konečný

I would like to acknowledge that I learned about this art environment through the reserach of Pavel Konečný.

Erika Strohnerová
Miniature village scenes
Krahule, Slovakia
can be seen from the street

January 13, 2015

Francesco Berta, Replica's and miniature village scenes

picture from the website Il Salice

Above picture shows a nativity scene, part of a indoor art environment in Viú, a hamlet of the community of Cantoira, north of Torino (Turin) in Italy (prov. Piemonte).

Life and works

The miniature village has been made by Francesco Berta (1924-2001), who was born in Viú and lived there all his life. Known as Cichin, he worked at the cable car of the regional mining company and he also was active as farmer, mainly for his own food.

In 1962, in a classroom of the no longer used village school, he began creating a nativity scene. sculpting the various characters from wood. His sister Onorina assisted him by making the dresses. The ensemble became known as Il presepe di Vrú, or as Betlemme delle Valli di Lanze.

In the course of the next twenty years the nativity scene would grow into a miniature village of some forty characters, who all together represent life in former days in the countryside, with the miller, the blacksmith, the laundress, and so on.

Both the dresses and the architecture of the cabins and houses truly reflect the style as usual in the region.

A special feature of the miniature ensemble is that (some of) the depicted characters can make movements, an effect Berta realized by means of the engine of an old washing machine.

Berta also builded some structures inspired upon regional architecture. such as a mill, the sanctuary at the Rocciamelone montain and other structures

Best known became his replica's of two famous Italian constructions, i.e. the leaning Tower of Pisa and the Mole Antonelliana, a building 167 m (548 ft) high, located in Torino (Turin)

These replica's, both some four meter (13 ft) high, are faithful copies of the original.

Actual situation

Thanks to the attentive care of Berta's son, both the miniature village and the replica's are currently extant and can be visisted,

* Video shot in 1998, published in 2013 (by Roberta Gallina, Youtube, 0'45")

Francesco Berta
Il presepe di Vrú (miniature vilage/replica's)
Hamlet of Vrú, Cantoira, Piemonte, IT
extant, can be visited