February 21, 2020

Domenico Mengozzi, Sculture intorno al mulino/Sculptures around the mill

all pictures courtesy of Francesco Galli

The building pictured above is located near the hamlet of Fiumicello, part of the municipality of Premilcuore, a small community some 65 km south-east of Bologna, Italy.

This building, amidst the wooded and rocky environment of the Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, is a mill which runs on a stream that on the spot has a lot of decline.

The centuries old mill for a long time has been managed by the Mengozzi family, most recently by the brothers Sesto and Domenico Mengozzi. It was well known for its flour of grains, but especially that of chestnuts.

However, due to the declining population in the area, the mill had to close in 1963. But the brothers, who were aware of the historical and cultural value of the mill, succeeded in 1993 getting it back up and running, now as a museum and tourist attraction.

the text above reads "Dea del parco, regina della foresta, 
vigila su mulino, proteggi il turismo diffida chi protesta"
(Goddess of the park, queen of the forest, watch over the mill, 
protect tourism, beware of those who protest)

Domenico Mengozzi: hobby sculptor

Domenico Mengozzi, the oldest of the two brothers, was probably born in the mid 1930s and passed away in 2006. Besides being a miller, he has become known as a self-taught artist, who made sculptures as a hobby. activities he started  in the early 1960s.

His oeuvre includes stand alone artworks, but also high reliefs in the rocks that surround the mill or are located along the road that leads to Fiumicello. All the creations he has made are located in or around the mill.

the text says "sculture in pietra serena eseguite dall'artista (scultore per hobby)
(Serena stone sculptures made by the artist (hobby sculptor))

As the text on above plaque says, Mengozzi worked mainly in pietra serena, sandstone that is common in the area surrounding the mill and is typical of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.

In the living area on the third floor of the building there are notably smaller creations, such as busts of religious and political figures, a group of small-scale sculptures depicting a nativity scene, chains of different sizes, but also a carved fireplace.

Outside, in the rocky area that surrounds the mill, Domenico Mengozzi has created a variety of sculptures. 

Apart from creations such as a fountain or the head of an older gentleman (Domenico's father Ferdinando Mengozzi?), these sculptures are mostly representations of individuals or animals, standing alone and often executed in high relief.

a sniffing pig

A number of examples can be seen in the photos, such as the lady with the clock (all the way up), a bearded man, an animal head and a sniffing pig (above), a deer with antlers and a sitting lady (below).

a deer with antlers
a text higher on the rocks says (translated into english): "You who wander 
in the forest are happy with that weight on your head"

After the death of Domenico Mengozzi, the mill and its surroundings are maintained by his brother Sesto, who is now in his early eighties, so for him and the next generation the moment might come to consider how the site will continue to be managed in the future.

a sitting lady

* entry on the website of Francesco Galli
* a booklet Fiumicello - Sulle tracce dell'uomo (Fiumicello - On the trail of man) can be bought via the website of the Parco Nazionale del Foreste Casentinesi
* article on the website Inspirock website with travel- and contact details
* article on Facebook (Romagna da Scoprire) with a variety of pictures both about the mill and the sculptures
* Instagram #mulinomengozzi
* a video on Cico's Channel (4'41", YouTube, August 2017), views of the site with a drone

Domenico Mengozzi
Sculptures around the mill
Fiumicello, Premilcuore, Province of Forlì-Cesena, region Emilia-Romagna, Italy
can be visited on Sundays in summer, or on appointment

February 12, 2020

Alfonso Rinaldi, Casa delle conchiglie/ Shell decorated house

all pictures courtesy of Francesco Galli

Snow White and the seven dwarfs have found a place at the foot of a wall decorated with shells, part of a house  that is completely covered with shells in San Giuliano a Mare, a hamlet of the municipality of Rimini on the northwest coast of Italy, facing the Adriatic sea.

Life and works

Alfonso Rinaldi (1901-1983), who was a taxi driver, in the 1960s, when he himself was in his early sixties, decided to realize an artistic dream of decorating his house.

His house is a few minutes' walk from the nearest beach and the availability of shells there makes his choice of shells as the most important decoration material obvious. 

It became a major project that would eventually include all the walls of the house and various smaller objects around it. Rinaldi mainly used shells of mussels and clams, but also a large quantity of scallops. 

As the project progressed, it became more and more sympathetic to people from the area, who started helping with collecting shells. Also owners of restaurants in the tourist town that is Rimini contributed shells, presumably mainly the scallops, which are largely part of the decoration.

It has been said in newspapers that Rinaldi has processed around 14.000 shells and that he has worked on the project for about six years.

The detailed photos around give a good impression of the pattern Rinaldi used to locate the shells on the substrate. On large surfaces he made long lines, horizontally, vertically, obliquely. depending on the status of the respective wall.

On small objects, such as garden pots (right above), this linearity has apparently disappeared, but looking closely a mixture of horizontal and oblique lines appears.

Also striking is the color scheme of the cement that Rinaldi used to attach the shells, with pink, yellow and light blue shades, for which he made special mortar blends.

The line patterns on the walls are broken by windows, and to a very limited extent by small decorations, such as the shrine (?) left above and the fish in the image below.

Considering that the decorations were made in the years 1960/70, it is remarkable how good they look even after some fifty years.

After Rinaldi died in 1983, his daughter inherited the property. In consultation with local authorities it was decided to leave the house in the state as created by Rinaldi.

As the documentation shows, in recent years various news media have paid attention to this art environment, often with similar content. 

In these article some foreign examples of creations with shells were often cited, but strangely not the shell decorated property of Marsilio Raggini in Bellaria, some 13 km north of the city of Rimini,

Articles (undated) by Giada Carraro on the websites of Costruttori di Babele and SPACES
* Article (February 2018) in local newspaper Rimini 2.0 with a variety of pictures
Article  (april 2018)  on website Daily Best
* Article (June 2016) newspaper La Stampa
Article (undated) on website Zingarate
* Article (undated) on website Atlas Obscura
* Video by Teleromagna (1'34", undated, YouTube)

Alfonso Rinaldi
Casa del Conchiglie
via del Fante 40.
47921 San Giuliano a Mare, Rimini, region Emilia-Romagna, Italy
no visits, can be seen from the street

January 29, 2020

Ron Gittins, Roman Villa, decorated interior

murals and painted ceiling
all pictures courtesy of  "The Caravan Gallery"

Oxton Village, in earlier years a rural hamlet in England, currently is a suburb of the town of Birkenhead, which is located on the left bank of the mouth of the river Mersey, opposite Liverpool. 

In January 2020, a Liverpool newspaper reported on the discovery of a rented Victorian ground floor in this community with an interior fully decorated with paintings on walls and ceilings, and fireplaces surrounded by life-size sculptural creations, all this without the neighbors or even the artist's family knowing anything about it. 

Life and works

This art environment is the life's work of Ron Gittins (1939-2019).

As a young boy he was rather creative, which became clear when he for example made plasticine toy soldiers executed with astonishing details. So it was obvious that after his primary education he went to the Laird School of Art in Birkenhead, the first public school of art outside of London, opened in 1871.

He also studied drama at a local college where he developed his ability to deliver speeches -very loudly- and he taught others to do the same.

After this schooling Ron had a variety of jobs, such as cutting rubber letters at a printing firm, working in soft furnishings in a department store, inspecting goods in a factory, but he wasn't the person to like being told what to do and usually his jobs ended up leaving because of disagreements.

Ron also tried to work as a self employed artist, painting murals and portraits, and for that he set up Minstrel Enterprises, a project that in professional sense had only limited success. However, in 1975 he did receive recognition in the Liverpool Echo and on television for turning his bedroom in his parents' (rented) house into a Roman villa !

A very flamboyant personality, seeking attention when out on the street, Ron often dressed in extraordinary outfits of his own creation. He would tell people that he was working for the Secret Service.

In the eyes of the residents in the area where he lived, he was somewhat eccentric. They saw him walking around in these self-made outfits, sometimes with a cart with a life-sized papier-mache model he had made of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, or transporting a large bag filled with cement he needed to make sculptures.

Ron's social-political views were rather conservative, unlike those of his sister Pat Williams, a few years older, who had joined the Liberal Democrats and was a councilor (1987-2016) and mayor (in 2002) of the Metropolitan Borough Council of Wirral, in which Birkenhead is located

murals in the bathroom

This difference of opinion and Ron's dramatic personality, and frequently outlandish and inappropriate behaviour, wouldn't facilitate the exchange of ideas between Ron and his family, nor encourage relatives to regularly visit Ron at home. In addition, Ron himself was very protective of his private domain. 

But the relationship between Ron and the family as such remained good, and the family also knew about Ron's activities with regard to the decorations in his house, albeit that they had no idea of the nature and certainly not of the size thereof. 

In particular when Ron's decorations started to cover almost all walls and ceilings, he became  extremely reluctant to welcome visitors, except maybe some special friends, afraid as he was that his landlord would hear of his wall decorations and that he would be expelled from his house.

But this reluctance to receive visitors also meant that his broken gas heater could not be repaired. 

In the last years of his life he lived alone, without heating, preparing food on a camping gas appliance, living amidst his decorations and the more than ordinary number of  things he had collected in the course of the years.

Gittins' art environment

It is not clear when Ron started working on his art environment. He may have been making paintings or working with art in a different way all the years he lived in the house. However, creating the decorations that currently form the art environment, must have been a project of many years.

The images above give an impression of the paintings that have been applied to the walls and the ceilings of almost all rooms in the house, including the bathroom.

There are historical figures such as French emperor Napoleon, British admiral Lord Nelson and his mistress lady Emma Hamilton. A warrior with a shield and sword is given a place on a ceiling.

The murals in the bathroom show a variety of fishes. 

The art environment also includes a number of impressive sculptures.

A chimney has been shaped like a giant bull's head (image left above) and there is a fireplace with a lion's head, three meters tall (image top right).

In the kitchen, which hasn't been provided with frescoes, there is a sculpture that looks like a temple.

Taken together, all these decorations exude a classical atmosphere and evoke associations with ancient Rome, Egypt and Greece.

Action to save the site

After Ron Gittins died in September 2019, the family for the very first time got acquainted with the decorations and sculptures in the house. That was a great, very special discovery.

Also because some family members are active in the art world, it was soon established that Gittin's legacy included a special work of art. In the last months of 2019 various experts, who were asked to visit the site and take a look at the decorations, agreed that this was a very interesting ensemble in the field of outsider art.

The social landlord Salisbury Management Services was also approached, and this organization appeared willing to conclude a contract aimed at keeping the house in its current state during the coming period.

In the course of January 2020, the local newspaper Liverpool Echo was approached. This journal published a large article about the discovery of the site, and this news subsequently was taken over by many other British newspapers.

All these activities were mainly undertaken by Jan Williams and her partner Chris Teasdale (Jan is a daughter of Pat Williams, Ron's sister. Jan and Chris together manage their art project The Caravan Gallery)

Meanwhile a crowdfunding campaign, Saving Ron's Place,  has been set up, an action that is still ongoing at the moment. Here is a video promoting the action:

* The official website Ron's Place
* Article (January 25, 2020) about the discovery of the site in newspaper Liverpool Echo
* A series of pictures of the site on Liverpool Echo
* Facebook account Saving Ron's place
* Website Crowdfunder about the action to save the site
* News item (1'00", January 29, 2020) by BBC North-West (video as published on Facebook by Claire Jones)

Ron Gittins
Roman Villa (decorated interior)
Oxton, Birkenhead, Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside, North-west England, UK
currently no visits 
if the crowd funding action is successful open days will be arranged
address will not be announced for the time being

January 24, 2020

Marsilio Raginni, Casa delle conchigli/Shell decorated house

unless otherwise indicated
the pictures (2017 and 2018) were published on Facebook 

Located along the coast of north-west Italy, the small community of Bellaria, part of the municipality of Bellaria-Igea Marina with some 17,000 inhabitants, is home to an art environment in the capacity of a shell-decorated garden. Like other places along this part of the coast facing the Adriatic Sea, Bellaria is a seaside resort, so using shells as decorative material is not surprising.

Life and works

The site was created Marsilio Raginni (1928-1996), who was a fruit and vegetable trader. He started the project in the early 1980s, when he was in his fifties. 

On the beach of Bellaria, especially if there had been a strong storm, he collected all kinds of shells, which he in particular used to decorated the exterior of his home. 

Above picture (via streetview) shows that the house is located on the corner of two streets  with a front and a side garden. These gardens are separated from the streets by a low fence, subdivided into numerous compartments, each with an arch full of shells on top. 

The access along the main street has a small building with a gable roof, which is also lavishly decorated with shells.


The garden itself has a variety of self-constructed objects, such as two water draw-wells, large flowerpots, statues of saints and representations of carts, pagodas, planes, coaches,.... all decorated with  shells, of course.

Along the tiled driveway to the garage Raginni has built an elongated covered exhibition space (picture above), where one can see a variety of replicas, in particular of religious buildings (Our Lady from Lourdes, Santa Rita da Cascia, Santuario Papa Giovanni) and houses, including the house where Raginni had spent his childhood.  

After Raginni passed away, his family took care of the site. Currently (2020) still in good condition, it can be viewed from the street.

* Article by Michols Mancini in local magazine Il Nuovo, November 2008, p. 10
* Beautifully illustrated entry about this art environment on website Costruttori di Babele, 

Marsilio Raginni
Casa delle Conchiglie
Via Nicolo Zeno 15
Bellaria, province of Rimini, region Emilia-Romagna  
can be seen from the street

January 18, 2020

Roger Jeampierre, Objets volants/Flying objects

this picture and the next two (around 2008) 
from the weblog of Thierry B 

Feurs, a community of some 8000 inhabitants, located along the River Loire, some 70 km west of Lyon, according to reports dating from 2008 was home to an art environment in the capacity of an ensemble of flying objects mounted on high poles.

Life and works

This ensemble was created by Roger Jeampierre, who was born in the early 1930s.

Jeampierre worked in Feurs as a plumber, who at some moment became responsible for monitoring the network of the company that distributes the drinking water in Feurs, a job named fontanier in French.

As such he lived in or next to some old buildings of the city's water company.

The above picture depicts Jeampierre's house, located along the route de Chambéon in a rural area on the left bank of the Loire river, opposite the town of Feurs, which is located on the right bank.

A view of the site made by Streetview in 2008, shows that the poles bearing the flying items stand along the (vegetable) garden of the house and could therefore also have acted as scarecrows.

Jeampierre has been an admirer of aircraft all his life, so it is not surprising that the items on the poles in particular include a number of replicas of aircraft.  The models date from earlier years and most aircraft have a pilot on board, such as the single-engine biplane pictured above.

 In the absence of recent reports about this art environment, it is not clear whether this site currently (January 2020) still exists.

* Article by Thierry B. on his weblog
* Entry on website Art Insolite

Roger Jeampierre
Flying objects
Route de Chambéon
Feurs, dept Loire, region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
no reports available about the actual situation 

January 13, 2020

Viktor Kazakovtsev, Вятская модница/Vyatka fashionista

screenprint from the first video in the documentation

One can encounter him in the center of Kirov, a city of some 473.000 inhabitants in Russia, located at some 1000 km north-west of Moscow. Almost every morning Victor Sergejevitsj Kazakovtsev, locally known as Vyatka fashionista ¹, sets out in one of his many special outfits to take a walk in the center of the city.

Life and work

Kazakovtsev was born in 1946 in the community of Arbazh in the Kirov region. Already in his younger years he demonstrated musicality. He had a nice voice, could sing well and liked to play the accordion. 

He attended a music school, after which he got a job in the regional cultural center of the village of Tuja as an assistant for amateur performances, such as accompanying the choir and a dance ensemble.

In that job he also helped with choosing and designing costumes for performances.

the two pictures above and next five from VKontakte 
(published there without mention of the photographer)

Kazakovtsev then became director of the Palace of Culture in the city of Kirov.

In the late 1980s his health did not go well. Already from the age of 14 he suffered from epileptic seizures, but now his symptoms were such that he had to be admitted to a neuro-psychiatric clinic.

Due to these health problems, Kazakovtsev was eventually declared unfit for work.

Now a single, divorced from his wife, two adult sons living elsewhere, he had to live on a benefit from the state because of his disability. 

From childhood on, also because of his mother's influence, he liked to wear nice clothes and now living alone, without a job but with a lot of time, he began to shape his appreciation for nice clothes into a passion for special clothing.

Kazakovtsev went visiting second-hand stores where he could buy costumes and other fashion items for a small price, which he thereafter on his old-fashioned hand-driven sewing machine converted into a suit to his taste.

All his creations came from his rich imagination and when making uniform-like clothing (as in above picture), he was careful not to imitate army and comparable official uniforms, so as not to come into conflict with authorities.

In the first years of his special hobby, he also did not want his activities to become known to others, but when perestroika began in 1993, that attitude changed and from then on he dared to go public with his hobby.

Kazakovtsev started wearing his creations in public and gradually -certainly in the last decade- he became a well-known public person in Kirov, got attention from the press, was presented in videos on You Tube and was asked to appear on regional and national television.

The videos show he likes to do acts, for example portraying a pipe smoking ship's captain (although he never smokes nor drinks).

In the old and small wooden house where he lives, the walls of the living room are fully covered with calendars with images of artworks made by famous artists and paintings by Kazakovtsev himself. 

And then: clothing is everywhere, not just in a couple of cupboards, but also hanging on nails in the wall, lying on chairs and on his bed......

All items of his extensive collection of over a hundred garments are put together as in a storage, without any form of presentation in an arrangement.

So, exhibiting his fashionable creations does not happen in the sheltered surroundings of Kazakovtsev 's house, but in the much larger environment of public space, when he makes his walk in the city center. Or, as has been noted in other words: Kazakovtsev was removed from the stage when he had to quit his job as a director of the Palace of Culture, but then he made the entire city a stage, where he now has more spectators than in the Palace.

Whatever the case may be, the collection of around a hundred colorful and imaginative items of clothing and costumes scattered throughout the relatively small house, as such can be regarded as an art environment.

* Article (November 2018) by Evgina Volunkova on website Taki Dela
Article (October 2018) on website Kirov Online (video included)
* Article (December 2019) on website Mk-Kirov
* Video (April 2019, 5'16", YouTube ) on Телеканал 360 

* Video (May 2013, 2'19", YouTube) on Vyatka TV (act as a ship's captain)

* And another video, also on Vyatka TV (September 2013, 2'12", You Tube) with an act as a railwayman

¹ Vyatka was the name of the city of Kirov until 1934

Victor Sergejevitsj Kazakovtsev
Vyatka fashionista
Kirov, Kirov region, Russia
live performances in city center

January 05, 2020

Robrecht Leenders, Theater Bofland/Theater Lucky Land

the decorated front side of Robrecht Leenders' "Theater Bofland"
picture from the Bofland website

The picture above shows the decorated front of an ordinary house in an ordinary street in Hasselt, a town of some 78000 inhabitants in the north-east of Belgium. 

The owner of the house has transformed the ground floor of the property into a theater/museum, named Bofland in Flemish, which in English means Lucky Land. The back yard of the property includes a variety of sculptures and other creations. All together a colorful art environment 

Robrecht Leenders in front of the site
this picture (August 2017) courtesy of ©️ Els Schepers

Life and works

The one who created this art environment/theatre/museum is Robrecht Leenders, who was born in 1948 in Heusden, some 17 km north of Hasselt, where his father had a music store. Leenders himself later said that he grew up in a loving family.

The internet has no information on how Leenders was doing once he was an adult. In view of the activities he has undertaken since the late 1980s, it is not impossible that before that time he was part of alternative groups or experimental artistic circles. 

How this may be, after a number of wanderings, in 1985 Leenders ended up in Hasselt, the city where he would live for the rest of his life and also the city that would get to know and appreciate him as a theater artist and a song singer traversing the city with his bike and guitar.

the inscription says "Welcome in Bofland" 
this picture and the next one from the Bofland website

Creating a theater

Once feeling at home in Hasselt,  Leenders step by step began to transform the ground floor of his house into an interactive educational theater. There is a small entrance hall where visitors are welcomed, there is a small stage against the front wall bordering the street,  and there is seating in the form of groups of tables and chairs.

The interior has been richly furnished with all kinds of decorations, fairy-tale scenes, viewing boxes and miniature arrangements, but, above all, every part of the red painted wall and ceiling tells a story by means of colorful posters on the walls and the specific creations arranged around.

The Bofland Theater (Lucky Land Theater) began its public activities in the early 1990s. 

a view of the interior

The theatre has a special theme. It relates how people treat the earth badly and how aliens from the Bof Planet come to save her by bringing love and take with them the Belts, who are the bad guys.

Bofland theatre was regularly visited by groups of children, for example to celebrate a birthday or as part of a school project. Leenders with his young spirit and great imagination, would entertain them by telling stories and singing songs, accompanying himself on the guitar.

The decorated garden is part of the project

view of the garden
this picture and the next two (August 2017) courtesy of ©️ Els Schepers

The accompanying pictures show some tall trees, which is due to the fact that the back garden of the house borders on a piece of forest that has survived for many years amidst the surrounding urban buildings.

This abundance of greenery enhances the already remarkable allure of the back garden, with its variation of specific creations with which Leenders enriched the space.

There are metal structures that look like spaceships, which of course refer to the inhabitants of the Bof planet who in Leenders' theater project visited the earth, On the terrace of the garden there are some blue colored high poles carrying blue colored bird nests filed with yellow and white colored young ones.

There are also some sculpted items, such as the small grotto in blue, as can be seen in detail in below picture..

The theater now is a museum

Because he was getting older and with less stamina, Leenders decided in 2017 to end the theater performances. The site as such, however,  continues to exist, now as a Museum. 

The city of Hasselt has recognized the specific value of this art environment and has bought the house, this to Leenders' reassurance with respect to the future of his creation.


At the beginning of 2014, the internationally working photographer Jos Aerts, who lived in Hasselt, got Leenders' cooperation for a photo project about him and his art environment, which led to the exhibition Gen-erations in the local museum Stadsmus  (15/10 - 8/11)

* Website of Theater Bofland
* Article (2019) by Machteld Bosmans on local website I love Hasselt
* Article (2015) in local newspaper about Jos Aerts' photo exhibition

* Video (2'44") about Leenders and Bof Land by Pieter Bas (trailer of a documentary film) on YouTube (January 2010)

* The documentary film is also on YouTube, in 5 parts.
Here are the links part 1 (16'16")part 2 (16'16") - part 3 (15'17") - part 4 (8'39") - part 5 (17'23")

Robrecht Leenders
Theater Bofland
Kempische Steenweg 52,
3500 Hasselt, Belgium
exterior decorations can be seen from the street
visits only on appointment