September 11, 2014

Erich Bödeker, Garten mit Skulpturen/Sculpture garden

Life and works

Born in Recklinghausen (Germany) Erich Bödeker (1904-1971), having completed his primary education at the age of around fourteen, went to work in a coal mine, in these days an important industry in the german Ruhr area.

He would continue this job for over forty years, untill in 1959, at age 54, he contracted silicosis and was declared unfit.

From the catalogue of the exposition 
Panorama International de la peinture naive   
organized in 1964 by the 
Mission universitaire et culturelle Française au Maroc 

For Bödeker this was the moment to start a new life. 

Much to the astonishment of his family and friends, he began making sculptures from all types of wastematerial such as old boxes, kitchenware, parts of machines...

After his first experiences with this kind of activity, he continued making sculptures by mainly using wood and concrete, in particular with a focus upon depicting persons and animals  

He covered his sculptures with rain-resistant brightly colored paint (The video listed in the documentation has pics in color; those of the garden, made in the nineteen-sixties, all are in B/W).

this picture and the next two: screenprints
from the Bohnes video (see documentation)

Bödeker displayed his creations in the small garden at his home, which in general contained some hundred items. 

In 1961, fairly soon after he started as a naive artist he met the director of the museum in Recklinghausen, who arranged an exposition of his works in the local town hall. 

Thereafter Bödeker almost every year got expositions (click here for a complete list). In 1970 he participated in the first Triënnale of Naive Art in Bratislava (INSITA) , where he won the first prize for sculptures.

Although his garden became a meeting point of people who were interested in his sculptures, as far as I know, in Germany the site as such never has been seen or described as an art environment.

Probably Bödeker himself used the garden more as a storage area, rather than that he wanted to transform it into an artistic creation as such. But then, Bödeker also had to learn from others, that he happened to be a naive artist... 

Indeed, recognizing and naming art work frequently is dependent upon the point of view and background of the observer. When in France in the nineteen-sixties interest in art environments arose (Ehrmann's Les inspirés et leur demeures, 1962; first research of Bernard Lassus), Germany did not have such a development, perhaps also because these phenomena are rare in that country.

Having been active as a naive artist for some eleven years, in 1971 Bödeker died in his garden in the midst of his sculptures. 

He has made over a thousand sculptures, many of which have been included in museum collections. 

However, I couldn't trace any information about what happened to Bödeker's other artistic legacy and how it went with his garden, 

* The Bödeker-Gesellschaft für Naive Kunst deals in-depth with naive art and artists, and has inventarised all works by Bödeker.
* Stefan Schwidder, "Naive Kunst von Erich Bödeker: die Kunstwerke ehemaliger Bergwerkskumpel", in: Deutsches Algemeines Sontagsblatt, July 6th 2000 
* Video uploaded to Vimeo by Jochen Bohnes, a contribution of his father Wilhelm G. Bohnes to a cultural program on ZDF TV (Germany)

Erich Bödeker from Jochen Bohnes on Vimeo.

Erich Bödeker
Garten mit Skulpturen
Recklinghausen, Germany
location unknown

September 08, 2014

Joseph Meyer, Maison aux allures de chateau/Castle-like house

view from the street 

In my post of april 23, 2011 Visiting some environments in Northern France with Laurent Jacquy this castle-like house constructed by Joseph Meyer (1914 - ?) has been briefly mentioned.

The following post has a bit more information ànd it has pictures of the structures at the backside of the house which hitherto were not available on the internet.

constructs at the backside of the house 
this picture and the next ones (2013) 
courtesy of Rita and Pieter Boogaart

Life and works

Meyer, who was born in 1914, was wounded when in military service during World War II. He lost a leg and a number of fingers.

He wanted to show that notwithstanding his disability he was able to carry out something big.

another view of the backside

So from around 1950 till around 1960 Meyer has been active in transforming his house -located in an ordinary subsurb of a french seaside resort- into a castle-like structure, a building with two high rising towers, one at the streetside and one at the backside.

The staircase on above picture leads to a towerroom of 27 m2 (291 sq ft) that in summer can be rented as a holiday apartment

 detailed view of the decorations of the backside tower

On the frontside the house has another tower, this one slightly more modest than the one at the rear, but nicely decorated and equipped with a small watch tower at its flank. 

The inner court at the front side is separated from the street by a crenelated and decorated wall, that also has some niches.

inner court at the frontside 
with tower and part of the outside wall

As can be seen on the first picture the exterior wall has two gates. of which the left one has a pediment topped with a shield, which has an inscription that reads KIA MATE TOA, Fight unto death, the motto of soldiers from Southland, New Zeeland, who fought in Gallipoli in the First World War.

This tribute to New Zeeland's soldiers may have to do with Meyers activities as a soldier during the second world war, but I couldn't trace any information about this, as there is also no information on the internet about other aspects, such as when Meyer passed away and when the property was transferred to new owners, who deserve praise for the good care they take of this art environment/folly.

Joseph Meyer
Maison aux allures de chateau
152 rue Émile Lavezzari
Berck-Plage FR
no visits, can be seen from the street

August 21, 2014

Luis Rico Pinilla, Palacios y Catedrales/Palaces and Cathedrals

view from the street
pictures: screenshots from 
the Serflac video (see documentation)

Life and works

Born in the community of Sanchoñu in the Segovia area, Luis Rico Pinilla (b.1938) at age fifteen moved to Bilbao where he expected to find better opportunities to earn an income. 

He got a room in the house of a brother and one his first activities in Bilbao was to buy brushes, paint and canvases.

Although artistically motivated, Rico would not seek a career as a professional artist. He got a job as a mechanic at a factory of metal products and thereafter he went to work at Petronor, a Basque oil and gas company. He would hold this job for over thirty years, untill he retired in 2009.

In his free time Rico would make paintings  and at some moment he also began making replicas from cathedrales and other monumental buildings.

In 1981 he bought a piece of land in the San Roque neighbourhood in the community of Zierbena near Bilbao with the intention to build a holiday home there.

Since there was no water supply, Rico built a square concrete basin to collect rainwater. In doing this he got the idea he might as well continue building, and erect a castle around the basin.

So it happened. The construction of a holidayhome was postponed and Rico built a phantasy castle, some five meters high and with a floor area of some forty square meters. He would only use recycled materials.

part of the collection of replica's

The building obviously is a phantasy creation, an impression that is reinforced by the presence of gnomes on its landings and in the surrounding garden. In the evening the castle can be illuminated (by solar energy).

replica of Neuschwanstein in Hohenschwamgau

The all together some forty replicas of castles and cathedrals are retained in the adjacent living house, that meanwhile has been builded.

These replicas on various scales, mainly made from cardboard and wood, depict famous, in general european buildings, such as the Notre Dame from Paris, the St Basil Cathedral in Moscow, the Vatican, London Bridge, Neuschwannstein, the Palacio Real in Madrid and many others.  

replica of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow

In recent years parts of the collection have been exhibited, for example in a neighbouring public library.


* Article in regional newspaper Deia (june 2014)
* Video by Serflac (Youtube, 5'53", uploaded july 2014

* Video by Tele7Radio7 (Youtube, 4'24", uploaded july 2014)

* Video by Tele7Radio7 (Youtube, 1'02", uploaded feb 2012), showing some of the replica

Luis Rico Pinilla
Palacios y Catedrales
San Roman Auzoa,
Zierbena, Bizkaia, ES
can be seen from the road, no public visits

August 10, 2014

Heikki Kylliäinen, Satumökkipiha/Fairytale Cottage Garden

the site as seen from the street

Savitaipale is a small community of some 3800 inhabitants in the South Karelia area in southern Finland.

It has a special art environment: a fairytale cottage garden, created by Heikki Kylliäinen, who had a job in a local factory producing prefab concrete and in 1992 was declared unfit because of a back injury.

this picture and the next ones 
courtesy of Raija Kallioinen

The large garden around his house nowadays has of a collection of various wooden cottages, some rather small, others with three floors and with balconies, all singlehandedly constructed by Kylliäinen in the course of the years.

All cottages have been abundantly decorated with colorful items, often made from recycled materials,

These items, may represent birds, flowers, horses or stars and in general are arranged in rhytmic patterns.

Other embellishments made by Kylliäinen have the form of garlands and mobiles.

A special variety of mobiles, in generally made from straw and used to decorate the interior of houses, especially at Christmas time, in Finnish is called himmeli.

So Kylliäinen's art environment is also announced as Himmelitaivas, as in Pirtola's video (see documentation).

Trees in a row that limit the garden, are connected with these colorful creations.   

* Video by Erkki Pirtola (14'43", uploaded nov 2012, Youtube)_

Heiiki Kylliäinen
Savitaipale, FI

August 03, 2014

Unknown artist, Дом со львом/The Lion House

 pictures courtesy of Julia Terekhova
wall in the main room with the lion
the doorway leads to the bedroom

The Lion House, a small dwelling with fully decorated walls and ceilings, is a rather unique example of peasant folk art in southern Russia.

Located in the small community of Popovka  in the Saratov area (west of the Volga river) and probably dating from the beginning of the twentieth century, it is unknown who decorated this house. It might be that the first inhabitant of the house was the artist or maybe a regional creator of icons has been involved.

Because of the troubled times in the region in the nineteen-twenties and thirties, it is difficult to ascertain the history of the house and its inhabitants.

Recently discovered and saved

In 2009 students of  Saratov State University discovered the decorations in the cabin which was uninhabitated at that time. An article in a journal about this came to the notice of Julia Terekhova, an art expert, restorer and cultural manager from St Petersburg, who for the first time visited the site in 2010.

When she understood that the then owners planned to demolish the house (to use the leftovers to construct a sauna), she succeeded to buy it, bringing together the needed amount of money with the help of friends.

walls of the main room, opposite the scene with the lion
above the window on the left St George, above the window on the right a cherubin
in between a kiot, a device to display an icon
on the ceiling an eagle

In this way in 2011 the house became a private museum. It was considered to move it to an open-air museum, but finally it was decided to maintain it in the socio-cultural environment where it originated, which, considering that this kind of art in many aspects is related to its social and cultural environment, is a praiseworthy decision.

The Lion House is meant to function as cultural centre. As Terekhova has said in an interview, it should be a platform where anyone can come and put in practice their idea, organize their event, keeping in mind that the event should have a public significance and will be attractive to other people.  

Over the past few years there have been camps with volunteers who help maintain the site by doing repair work. Creative activities have been organized for groups of children from children homes around.

a cherubin

The paintings depict eastern-orthodox characters  

A gift from a cultural fund, meant to help the Lion House to present itself as a msueum, has made it possible to create a sophisticated website, which is very informative with texts in english and an interactive virtual tour along the decorated walls.

Clicking these informative panels the visitor learns more about the background of the paintings, which in general depict eastern-orthodox characters, such as the lion (probably symbolizing Mark the evangelist), Saint George and the dragon, a cherubin, an eagle (probably symbolizing John the evangelist), a shepherd herding geese (who might be Saint Tryphon or the original owner of the house).

St. George and the dragon

Volunteers and donations needed

The Lion House hasn't an official status as a museum. Not getting any financial support from public authorities to ascertain its continuity, for this support the museum depends upon contributions of interested people around, both in terms of donations and in helping as a volunteer in doing repair work etc.

All forms of support are welcome. Refer to the website.

* Website of the Museum
* The museum's Facebookpage
* Article (in english) in website Russia beyond the headlines, june 21, 2014
* Video by Saratov TV (3'01", uploaded july 2011, Youtube)

Unknown artist
Дом со львом (The Lion House)
5 Puskin Row
Popovka, Saratov area, 
Russian Federation
free to visit during opening hours

July 27, 2014

Alain Fornells, Les meubles modestes/The modest furniture

The small community of Bassan with some 1400 inhabitants, north of Béziers in the Hérault area in southern France, has a modest museum that displays meubles modestes (modest furniture)
Life and work

The man who made these meubles, Alain Fornells, by profession is a homecare male nurse, but by vocation he is an ébéniste poète, a cabinetmaker/poet.

Around 1996 he began making assemblages from parts of old wooden merchandise crates, transforming these into cabinet-like creative constructs, often decorated with texts and/or signs, somtimes equiped with illumination and sound devices.

In the course of the years this activity has resulted in the downstairs room of his house being filled with creative constructs, all together a very special interior art environment.

Each item expresses a story that emerges when Fornells begins making it: childhood memories, dramatic events in the world,  fantasy ..... The creations take the form of cars, cupboards, boats, submarines, hidden dollhouses or are just fantasy constructs. 

His creations include a cabinet dedicated to the memory of the russian submarine Курск that crashed in 2000. Another one is La Loba, based upon the book by Clarissa Pinkola Estès, Women who run with wolves. And there is l'Impracticable, a cabinet with doors that open inward and occupy all space.

Fornells'  oeuvre comprises a wonderful world with mixtures of the real and the imaginary, the useful and the useless, childish dreams and adult actuality....

The videos (french spoken) in the documentary section bring to life how Fornells entertains groups of visitors (up to eight people) who did apply for a guided tour.
* Alain Fornells' website
* Article in english in Herault Times nr 10, april 2013
* Video by TerredHerault (4'16", uploaded sept 2012, Daily Motion,

* Video by Thomas Bordes (2'23", uploaded may 2013, Youtube)

* Video by Jean-Maurice Gaudry (1'53", uploaded august 2011, Youtube)

Alain Fornells
Les meubles modestes
2 rue des Remparts
34290 Bassan, FR
guided visits, in weekends, on appointment

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