January 22, 2021

Alexei Zhuchenko, Зоопарк / Zoo


pictures are screenprints from the videos 
in the documentation

The scene pictured above, with three storks on a field in the middle of urban buildings, is situated in Krasnoyarsk, a city of about a million inhabitants in the Asian part of Russia¹.

Such a scene, obviously created by a non-professional artist and located in public space in a residential area, in Russia is mostly referred to as ZEKH art


ZHEK art

ZHEK is an abbreviation that refers to an office of a Russian city in the field of housing and administration and ZEKH art has to do with the phenomenon that in Russian cities it often happens that a few more or less artistic creations are set up by residents in a location amidst urban buildings, this to cheer up the often dull environment and often also to create playground for children. 

The creations usually have been made from remnants, often worn-out car tires or other superfluous items.

An account on Instagram offers a large number of photos with examples of such creations. As these photos show, such creations are usually stand-alone items or small groups thereof.


The site in Krasnoyarsk that is discussed here, however, includes such a large number of creations that, even though there is a connotation with ZEKH art, it is rather an art environment in public space.

Creating an art environment in public space

This art environment was created by Alexei Zhuchenko, who was born in 1961 and in his early years already was engaged in creative activities. 

After his primary education he trained as a mechanic. He was a professional soldier from 1989 to 1997 and then had a civilian job as a mechanical engineer.


Around 2008, he and his wife moved to Krasnoyarsk, where they settled in a flat along Michurina street, where Zhuchenko had access to a space in the basement of the flat.  

He used this space as a workshop and now he could express his still-present desire to be creative, like making swans from old car tires, following the example that so many others in the field of ZEKH art had set.


Zhuchenko was also a person who cared about the appearance of the neighborhood. He was active in keeping the environment clean and in this way he came into contact with other residents who, for example, planted flowers in the open space between the apartments.

Thanks to his involvement with the neighborhood, around 2013, in consultation with local residents, he started making sculptures of animals that, set up in the now green space between the flats, would gradually become kind of a zoo.


As the images in this post show, Zhuchenko had by now developed the necessary skills in making sculptures. Working with frames of wood, plywood or chicken wire, over which cement and also polyurethane foam was applied, he succeeded in giving his creations a realistic appearance. 

All kinds of animals, such as bears, deer, flamingos, owls, giraffes, storks, flamingos and donkeys, were given a place in the space between the apartments. 

Zhuchenko's technical prowess is evident in the image of an owl in one of the photos above. The beautiful feather dress, proudly displayed by the owl, turns out to have been made of pieces of hard rubber.

Sculptures such as a donkey or a deer, are also so strong that children can climb them. The lion cub sitting on a turtle, depicted in one of the other pictures, is probably based on a Russian fairy tale or a children's television series, just as the donkey refers to the character Shrek in a Russian animated movie. 


For the local authorities it isn't a problem that a space between flats is graced with sculptures, on the contrary, in 2019 the city organized a competition with the theme The best Krasnoyarsk courtyard of a residential apartment building

And indeed, Zhuchenko's art environment along Michurina street was nominated for first place.


Documentation
* Article and video (April 2017) on the website of regional TV Channel 7
* Article and video (October 2019) on local website prmira (with reviews of some other sites with ZHEK art in and around Krasnoyarsk
* Article (September 2019) on the website of local newspaper Gor Novosti, with a series of photos
*Article (September 2020) on the website of regional newspaper NGS24, with a series of photos
Videos
* Video  (1'50", September 2019, VK.com) by community Я Люблю Красноярск (I love Krasnoyarsk)


* Video (3'07", April 2017, YouTube) by regional TV Channel 7 Krasnoyarsk  



Note
¹ The reviews in this weblog relate to  art environments in Europe. Nevertheless, characteristic sites in the Asian part of the Russian Federation are also included, in order to give a balanced and coherent picture of the entire field of Russian art environments.

Alexei Zhuchenko
Zoo
Ulitsa Michurina 1
Krasnoyarsk, Siberia region, Russia
streetview
site can be seen from the street

January 15, 2021

Nadine Mehly, Maison colorée / Colorful house

pictures courtesy of Sophie Lepetit,
from her weblog

Non-resident motorists driving the D1203 departmental route just north of the French community of Charvonnex tend to slow down to get a better view of the colorfully decorated house that stands along the road.

Life and works

This Maison colorée was created by Nadine Mehly. who was born in Nancy in 1957, where she also got her primary and secondary education. After that, she worked mostly at retail companies, such as she was a sales woman at a large department store in Grenoble for over ten years.

When she got married she settled with her husband in Charvonnex in the house in question along the departmental road. 

Charvonnex is a small community of about 1400 inhabitants in the east of France, close to the French Alps and the border with Switzerland.

a wall with multi-colored painted stones

Initially, there were no indications that Nadine would embark on such an artistic project. 

Living in Charvonnex, she had a job as a cashier at a supermarket in a nearby community. When this company was closed, she became unemployed. Later she would receive a disability pension.

multicolored items on the ground along the fence

However, in 2003, when she was in her mid-forties, it so happened that her husband went on a motorcycle tour. At home alone, Nadine felt inspired to paint the front door of the house and she liked this so much that she also started to decorate the façade. 

As she said:  "Je devais just peindre et j'ai pas pu retenir la main ni le pinceau. Quand il est revenu, il n'a pas reconnu sa maison"  (I just had to paint and I couldn't hold my hand or the brush. When he came back, he didn't recognize his house. -This quote from the article in Le Messager, see documentation)

a close up photo of a number of masks

Currently the site includes over 1200 painted stones that are part of the outer walls of the living house. They were painted on the spot, to a height as far as Nadine could reach.

As the picture above shows, Nadine also added a large number of smaller painted items, such as all kinds of masks, each shaped and colored in different ways. These masks are mainly attached to the railing of the front porch of the house.

The site also has been decorated with a variety of skulls,which one also encounters in the interior, together with various dolls and all kinds of other items, which almost completely fill the available space.

a text on a wall

The lavishly decorated wall on the ground floor has been provided with a text in colorful capital letters, as can be seen in above picture.

This text reads: "Faut rien regretter. Revendique tes conneries. Elles sont à toi. Et surtout vis à fond. On viellit bien trop vite. La sagesse ça sera pour quand on sera dans le troux"  (You shouldn't regret anything. Claim your bullshit. It’s yours. And above all live thoroughly. We get old way too quickly. Wisdom will be for when we're in the hole).

This leaves nothing to be desired in terms of clarity ....


Architecturally, the site has seen some changes since the beginning of the decorations.

For example, in 2011 a hexagonal wooden summer house was placed along the side wall, a kind of gazebo, which is somewhat separate and does not seem to be part of the decorative whole.

The most significant change has to do with the fence. 

Initially the house was not fitted with a structure separating the outdoor space from the street, but around 2015 a partition was added, surrounding front and left side of the house, made by linking wooden pallets as used by transport companies.

This low fence, of course very colorfully decorated, contributes greatly to the visibility and spatial character of this art environment.




In addition, the fence offers space for some essential elements of a house, namely a name plate, a house number and a very special letterbox in the capacity of two boots, as shown in the picture topright.


Over the years Nadine Mehly worked on the project, she got divorced. 

Whether the site will survive if she can no longer take care of the decorations, for her is nothing to worry about. She takes into account that the colors and various decorations of her Maison Colorée then might disappear.

Documentation
* Entry (April, 2019) by Sophie Lepetit on her weblog, with a series of pictures
* Article (May 2018) on the website of France 3 TV (Alpes), with a video
* Article  (April 2018) on regional newspaper l'Essor Savoyard
* Article (April 2018) on regional magazine Le Messager (on p 40)

Video
* Video (1'50", May 2018) by France 3 TV (Alpes) 


Nadine Mehly
Colorful house
1324 route d’Annecy (D1203)
74062 Charvonnex, dept Haute-Savoie, region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region
can be seen from the road

January 08, 2021

Ritva Nurmi, Navetta Galleria / Navetta Gallery


this picture and the next two from the
FB page of the Kyyhkylä hotel
(name of photographer not mentioned)

Interior and exterior of a barn on the premises of a rural hotel in Finland together form a rather special art environment, comprising a rich collection of handcrafted recycle art. 

Welcome to the Navetta Gallery, a site created by Ritva Nurmi.

Life and work

Ritva Nurmi was born in 1942. Her twin sister and her brother both became professional artists. and although Ritva also had a feeling for making art, she did not attend an art academy, a bit uncertain as she was about making art as a profession, 

Only in the 1980s, when she was already in her forties, did she -as a self-taught artist- start making paintings. Because of this she got to know the use of colors and shapes, and she also gained more self-confidence with regard to being artistically engaged.

Partly thanks to this development, she decided in 1998 to make a new choice regarding her artistic work and she decided to switch to the special genre of recycle art, making all kind of creations from discarded materials.

 this picture depicts "Mop-Mimmi", a creation
made of a cleaning mop, plastic bottles and doll legs.

At that time Ritva Nurmi lived in Kirkkonummi, a town near Helsinki. She had been married and had children, but now divorced, she had all the freedom to do art in her own way. 

Due to reorganization, in 2001 she was fired from her job at the emergency center of the fire brigade. Since at that she moment was almost 60 years old, she probably received a (pre) pension.

In the same year she moved from Kirkkonummi to the community of Mikkeli, a few hundred kilometers to the north, where, through the intermediary of a mutual good friend, she was given an exhibition space and housing at Kyyhkylä Manor. 

an imaginatively dressed young musician
plays a (real) accordion

Built in 1630, this estate over the centuries has undergone many changes, like it served in the 1920s as a rehabilitation center for soldiers who had become disabled during the Finnish war of independence in  1918. 

Today it houses, among other facilities, a modern hotel. Ritva Nurmi's workshop and art gallery is situated in a barn belonging to the hotel. 

exterior of the barn
this picture and the next four screenprints
from the video in the documentation

The picture above gives an impression of the exterior of the barn. It can be seen that a number of Ritva's creations have been given a place around the building.

The picture below shows the facade of the barn, with a sloping deck leading to the entrance.

To the left is a person sitting on a bench under the gallery's nameplate, a painting and one of the first creations from recycled items Ritva made. Mainly using a pair of old gloves, she depicted a cow.

entrance of the gallery

The gallery, which opened to the public in 2003, includes Ritva's paintings made before 1998, as well as the large collection of recycled art she made in the following years.

The gallery is open to visitors all year round. There is no entrance fee and Ritva does not sell her work.

interior of the gallery

In Ritva's view the gallery should offer an atmosphere of happiness, joy and beautiful experiences. The energy of money should not be given a place there.

In the years leading up to the Covid pandemic, she was in the habit of welcoming visitors with a hug.

When making creations, Ritva also sees herself more as an intermediary, like she says that when busy with a new creation, beforehand she does not fully controls what comes about. It seems the ideas come from elsewhere, and she is often surprised at what she achieves.

Ritva Nurmi showing a homemade handbag

Besides the clothes for the various creations, Ritva also makes her own clothes and other personal gadgets, such as a purse or beret

The red-colored garment she's wearing in the photo above is reminiscent of the clothes worn by Sue Kreizman, the self-taught artist who lavishly decorated the interior of her home in East London.

The photo above also shows a bird in the bottom right corner. This one was made from a former handheld vacuum cleaner.

Likewise, Ritva has used all kinds of household appliances and garden tools for her creations, as well as bicycle helmets, boots and all kinds of clothing, just whatever was available ...

The space outside in front of the barn also has several decorations. For example, there is a path towards the entrance that is made of old CD discs, lined with all kinds of small structures, with a tree made of wellies at the end.

The grounds outside also feature some life-size creations, such as a blue-robed warrior with a shield


Ritva hopes that when she becomes too old to take care of the gallery, or if she has passed away, the city of Mikkeli will provide this care.

Documentation
* Article by Minna Tuuva on website ITE-net
Article (September 2019) by Tiina Suomalainen on Finnish website Seura, with some informative photos
Article (January 2019) by Päivi Vento on Finnish website Suomenma, also with some photos
* The website of the hotel has a short referral to the gallery, with a photo of Ritva Nurmi with one of her life-size creations
Video
Video by Artenomedia Oy (2017, YouTube, 2'29")



Ritva Nurmi
Navetta Gallery
Kyyhkyläntie 6, 50100 Mikkeli, Southern Savonia, Finland
the site can be visited all year, 
no entrance fee

December 28, 2020

Les Guallino, Jardin des plus de deux milles coeurs / Garden of more than two thousand hearts

all pictures courtesy of Sophie Lepetit, 
from her weblog

Referred to by the locals as Les Guallino, the couple Anne Poiré and Patrick Guallino has enriched the French municipality of Belmont de la Loire with an art environment that features the bright site of life.

Life and works

Patrick Guallino was born on May 10, 1943 in Uzès. Later he would live in Cannes

At a young age he became interested in visual art and at the age of fourteen he was already working with oil paint and chalk. 

a colorful character in the garden

He continued to do so until at age 25 he was upset by the Paris student revolt, May 1968, and he destroyed or burned all of his work, except a few paintings kept by his mother.. 

It was not until more than ten years later, in 1982, that he resumed the visual arts. He was and remained a non-professional artist without any art education.

In the meantime he was married and had two children.

mosaïque du tapis aux pierres précieuses (2011)
(gemstone carpet mosaic)


Anne Poire was born on September 10, 1965 in Thionville. From an early age she was fascinated by literature and music.

In 1983 she met Patrick and a close relationship developed, that would determine their further life. 

Anne said about this:  
When I met Patrick, painter, sculptor -I am more of a woman of words, rhythms, music and vocabulary- his studio immediately seduced me. And the man.  
I arrived in his small village, and we have never left each other: since then, acrylic, vowels, pastel, consonants, ink intermingle.

 Anne and Patrick got married and in 1990 they settled in Belmont de la Loire to live in a former tissue factory. Belmont is a small community of some 1500 inhabitants, located in a rural setting, north-west of Lyon.

Anne and Patrick in front of some of the  
architectures in their garden

They set up a space of the former factory as a studio and engaged themselves both personally and as a couple with artistic activities. 

Anne Poiré would mainly focus on the literary craft and publish a large series of books (an overview of the book covers can be found on her weblog). Patrick Guallino focused on visual art, initially creating small sculptures, later working on paintings (here is an overview of the development of his work).

an example of a decoration

Before moving moving on to an overview of the art environment created by the couple, two special events marking their artistic career should be mentioned.

First, on July 30, 2010 on the Place de la Fontaine in the center of Belmont de la Loire an artwork made by Les Guallino was unveiled. It is a screen made from polychrome aluminum, resting on a reconstituted stone base, with a size of 3x3 meters, entitled Amour toujours (Love always).

The other event is of a completely different order, but from an artistic perspective just as interesting. 

In the course of 2016, the couple began to paint umbrellas and put them up for sale. Given the responses published on their weblog, these parapluies de bonheur became a succes indeed. Customers made photos of the umbrellas in various situations, such as on holidays, in front of towers or shops, but also in combination with street art. Wearable art, indeed. 

view of the site through an opening in a wall

Creating an art environment

In 1998 the studio was expanded and soon after that through their joint effort, the outdoor space of Anne and Patrick's residence gradually was transformed into an art environment, a development which is still going on today (2020).

With this creation the couple wants to convey cordiality and happiness, generally speaking they want to present a sunny, joyful outlook on life.

The site includes a garden area with ponds and a number of paths, flanked by an assembly of various several meters high built structures, all parts provided with in general small-scale, colorful decorations.

There are just a few separate sculptures of people or animals -like there is a human character made from stacked stones-. so this site isn't a sculpture garden. However, some parts of the surface of the site have been provided with small-scale boulders or rock formations.

a view of some architectures in the garden

The decorations are mostly of an elementary nature. 

For example, the shape of a human being may be portrayed with a circle as head, a vertical line or triangle for the body and four outward reaching lines as arms and legs. Decorations of this type, or more elaborate variations of it, can be seen on various walls and other places in the site.

Other decorations with a human character, such as faces, are also simple in shape, although no less appealing, as in the picture below.

a series of faces

The paths and other parts of the site lying on the ground, are elaborately decorated with mosaics. An example of this can be seen in the video in the documentation called La mosaique de bonheur (Mosaic of happiness), made in 2011.

The video has images of celestial bodies, with suns depicted as red circles, houses consisting of a red square capped with a red triangle, and there is a multitude of hearts in all kinds of primary colors,  all this interspersed with a few loose pieces of rock. 

Another path, named Le chemin de l'espoir  (Path of hope) has been decorated with trees, probably trees of life, and a third path Le chemin de la vérité et de la vie (Path of truth and life) has been covered with oval mosaics (pictures here)

the pond covered with bamboo sticks 

The site has a round pond, which is covered with a number of decorated bamboo sticks, this in order to protect the fish in the pond from foraging herons.

About the architectures

Regarding the architectures set up in the site, the images in the previous section of this post already give a first impression.

It can be seen that all these constructions are provided with decorations, both in the form of depictions applied on and in the walls, as well as items situated on top of the structures, such as ornamental creations or assemblies of coarse-meshed grid embellished with small colorful items

enclosing wall with decorated panels
.
specific example of a decorated built structure is the above pictured wall that encloses the site.

This far-stretching wall comprises a large number of panels, each of which is individually provided with wall drawings, as in the picture below.


some decorated panels

One of the panels in the wall refers to Venice with depictions of a gondola, a slender tower and the church on the San Marco Square.

tower with a bench

Above picture depicts a towery structure equipped with a (stone) bench. Sitting on the bench one can enjoy a pond, which is located in front of the tower.

The site also has a Tour de Solstice (Solstice Tower), that emerges on a circular surface of cement, inlaid with mosaic decorations. which was created in summer 2020. 

two dragons crown the top of the cave (2014)

There is also a cave in the garden, formed by a semicircular open structure sunk into a wall, as partly can be seen in above picture. This cave is named Grotte des amours, des fées et des secrets (Cave of loves, fairies and secrets) and was created in 2010.

The top of the cave is decorated with a colorful sculpture. The bulging semicircular rear of this cave is richly decorated.

sculptures around a pond;
in the background a sculpted gate

Apart from the large pond covered with bamboo sticks, mentioned more above, there is a another, smaller pond, surrounded by multicolored candle-holder-like creations.

In the background there is a sculpted gate, crowned with a sculpture of a friendly smiling two-headed character.

decorations on top of the sculpted gate

Near the small pond and the sculpted gate, a new structure has been built, called the Cabane des énergies (Energy cabin), a functional equipment transformed into an artwork with a gable roof, multicolored strips across the left and right sides of the roof and a ridge decorated with small creations.

No photo of this cabin is available here, but on a page in the joint weblog of the couple photos can be seen of the cabin, as well as from front- and backside of the cave, from the gate with the double-headed character and from the candle-holder shaped creations.


a stained glass wall
(on top of an old wall dating back to the 12th century

Finally, here above is an image of a stained glass wall, which has some resemblance to the sculpture unveiled in the center of Belmont de la Loire. This creation rests on a wall that dates back to the 12th century.

The overview given here of the art environment gives a broad outline of what the site contains in terms of creations. It is good to realize that there are also many small parts and decorations, which have to  remain unmentioned here, but which each in their own way contribute to the artistic richness of the site as a whole.

Documentation
* Weblog by Anne Poiré (with an overview of books she published)
* Weblog by Patrick Guallino
* Joint weblog of Anne and Patrick
* A review of Patrick Guallino's artwork (on pdf) by Ambre Davini
* Three entries on the weblog of Sophie Lepetit (august 2019), with a large series of photos
* Wikipedia with a list of expositions and a bibliography
Videos
* An early video (YouTube, november 2011, 1'08") shows Patrick engaged in creating a mosaic



Video La mosaique de bonheur by Les Guallino (YouTube, 2011, 5'52") 



Anne Poiré/Patrick Guallino
Jardin de plus de deux milles coeurs
192, Chemin de Batty
42670 Belmont de la Loire, dept Loire, region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
the site is not open to the public,
occasionaly there are guided visits (see weblog)

December 18, 2020

Lasse Martikainen, Veistospuisto / Sculpture park


sculpture of an Unicorn
this picture and the next six courtesy of Minna Tuuva

The sculpture of an unicorn in above picture is part of a sculpture park in the small village of Koli that belongs to the municipality of Lieska in North Karelia, Finland.  First opened in spring 2019, it can be said that this opening marks the entrance of a new generation of non-professional artists in the field of Finnish art environments.

Life and works

Lasse Martikainen, the non-professional artist who founded this site, was born in 1987. His father, Ilmari Martikainen, owned since 1971 a garden center in Koli.

In his youth Martikainen was already engaged in creative activities, such as making sculptures. He also made nature trips with his father and after his primary education he went to study at a horticultural academy.

After his studies, for a number of years Martikainen was an entrepreneur in the field of horticulture, also working with and from his father's garden center.

sculpture of a couple wearing masks

The village of Koli is located in the Koli National Park, a nature reserve of 3000 ha, which was designated an official national nature reserve in 1991. In an election for the most beloved national landscape organized by the Finnish daily Iltalethi, this nature reserve came out as number 1. The area is therefore a popular tourist destination.

In 2016, when Martikainen was still 29 years old, he decided to give shape to the creative feelings that lay dormant in him, by starting a new project involving a combination of a sculpture park and the garden center. 

Since the field of about one hectare behind the greenhouses of the Koli Garden Center was no longer needed for flower cultivation, this area could be transformed into a sculpture park in such a way, that it could also become a tourist attraction, like adding a toilet and a kiosk to buy a consumption.

the fountain in the garden

It would take a number of years to transform the space behind the greenhouses into an art environment.

In part, the project involved making a new layout of this area and the construction of a pond with a fountain, as in the photo above, made from leaf-shaped aluminum elements.

The other part involved creating new sculptures to situate these in the garden and to give it the appearance of an art environment.

sculpture of a Minotaurus

The sculptures would be made from various types of material, such as stone, fiberglass, bronze or recycled materials. preferably taking into account the colors of the plants. 

In keeping with the fairly large size of the garden, Martikainen particularly wanted to make life-size sculptures, sometimes of considerable height, like the Unicorn, pictured in the top photo of this article.

This Unicorn, a creature from classical times, a symbol of purity and grace, only to be captured by a virgin, was welded together from aluminum remains. A photo of the creation in the making in 2017 is available on p. 11 of a publication by Pikes-Uliset

The Minotaurus, as in above photo, comes from Greek mythology and is a creature with the body of a man and the head and tail of a bull. The sculpture is made of bronze and is 1.5 meters tall

sculpture of Catwoman, frontside

Then there is a sculpture of Catwoman, a lady with the ears and tail of a cat, who appeared in American comic books and caused furore in films and TV series about Batman.

sculpture of Catwoman, backside

To conclude this overview that gives an impression of the sculptures in Martikainen's park, here is a photo of a sculpture of a worm.

sculpture of a worm

This creation was made from old heating pipes used in the greenhouse and from discarded gutters of the garden center's buildings.

A forest path lined with small sculptures

A series of 36 small-sized bronze sculptures has been set up along a path in a small wooded plot, adjacent to the large garden. Some photos of this series are available on Instagram

The site can be visited

Contrary to what is usually the case with art environments, a starting point in the design of this sculpture park was that it would attract visitors. The park was opened for the first time in the spring of 2019 and became a valued tourist site in its first year.

In 2020, despite the Covid pandemie, the number of visitors doubled.

The garden can be visited in the summer months. For opening times see the website.

Documentation
* Website of  Koli Sculpture Park
* Facebook page
* More pictures of the site on Instagram
Video
* Video (1'02") of the site on Vimeo


Lasse Martikainen
Sculpture park
Martikkalantie 13
83960 Lieksa, North Karelia, Finland
visitors welcome (entrance fee), see the park's website

December 10, 2020

José Leitao, Casa Leitao (arrangement de sculptures à l'intérieur/indoor arrangement of sculptures)

pictures courtesy of Laurent Jacquy

The wooden sculptures depicted in above picture are part of collection of some 400 wooden creations kept indoors in a workshop that's part of a house in the community of Ailly-sur-Somme, France.

Life and works

Also due to the manner of presentation, this extensive collection of wooden sculptures, created by José Leitao (1938-2020), can be seen as an art environment. 


Born in Portugal, Leitao emigrated to France in the 1960s. He settled in Ailly-sur-Somme, a community a few kilometers west of Amiens, where he got a job at the Carmichael company, a weaving factory that since 1841 had been located in this community.

Leitao, who was now married, worked at this company for over twenty years, until in 1983 the weaving mill ceased to exist and all 500 employees were fired. 

Now approaching 50 years of age, Leitao -like many of his colleagues- didn't succeed in finding a new job.


Not intending to spend his days idle, he began to make wooden sculptures. This became an activity that would keep Leitao busy for many years to come.

Leitao used the house's garage as his workshop. A sign above the garage entrance from the street said that Casa Leitao was located here. 

Here Leitao worked steadily on an increasingly extensive collection of wooden sculptures, which he arranged on shelves along the wall. 

As the pictures show, the creations are mainly about 40 to 50 cm high, although there are also several somewhat larger ones, occasionally around a meter high.


There are many busts, both of male and female characters, often with an impressive head of hair, a wig, a crown, a hat or another head covering.


A striking feature of the collection is a large number of depictions of a raised hand, sometimes with a palm that has an eye, which may have to do with the hamsa, a popular amulet in the Middle-East.

Leitao also liked to make sculptures with a combination of faces, animals or hands, as shown in above depicted series. Some of his sculptures arouse an association with cultures such as those of Indians or of pharaohs in classical Egypt.


The sculptures, as in above picture, have rather naturalistic depictions of male or female characters, but then an animal has been added to the heads, what results in a combination manifesting itself in such a way that both humans and animals seem to regard this as the most natural thing in the world.

The images above give only a limited impression of Leitao's creations. 

More images can be seen on an album made by Laurent Jacquy, who lives in nearby Amiens, and was impressed by Leitao's work. With the album he wanted to start a photo-documentation of this oeuvre. 

The sculptures, hidden as they were in a garage of a private house, gained little fame during Leitao's lifetime.

He will have been known locally, because the local press may have paid attention to him and in 2014 (from March 14-April 7) there was an exhibition in the former Carmichael factory, where Leitao was among the artists presented.


But then, what may have most appealed to Leitao, through Laurent Jacquy the French publicist in the fields of outsider art and art environments Bruno Montpied in 2010 came to visit him, which resulted in a review of his ensemble of sculptures in Montpied's extensive documentation and inventory of French art environments Le gazouillis des éléphants (2017).

On September 13, 2020 José Leitao died at age 82

Documentation
* Laurent Jacquy has posted various messages about Leitao and his creations on his weblog 
Les beaux dimanches, September 2020 (death of Leitao), May 2018 (Leitao with Montpied's book), June 2015September 2013September 2011,  April 2011 (first visit)
* Album with photos by Laurent Jacquy of Leitao's sculptures
* Article (April 2011) by Bruno Montpied on his weblog
* Review in the inventory of art environments in France by Bruno Montpied, Le gazouillis des éléphants, Paris (Éd. Du Sandre), 2017

José Leitao
Casa Leitao (Indoor arrangement of sculptures)
Rue Jean Catelas 128
Ailly-sur-Somme, dept Somme, region Hauts-de-France, France
(there is no info available about what wil happen with the collection)