April 19, 2024

Teijo Monni & Pertti Riikonen, Middle of Nowhere Taidepuisto / Middle of Nowhere Art park

pictures published here in agreement
with Middle of Nowhere

In a wooded area in the village Kaukanen in Finland, 50 km north of Helsinki, work is currently underway on the design of a park exposing outsider art (ITE-art in Finnish). This park, new in the field of Finnish art environments, will be officially opened on June 29, 2024.

The initiators

It is a project undertaken by two entrepreneurs,  Teijo Monni who was a wholesaler of office supplies for over twenty years and Pertti Riikonen, who was an electrician by training and had a business in that field.

Inspired by the publications of the Finnish organization Maaseudun Sivistysliitto (Rural Culture Association) that promotes ITE art in Finland, they visited art environments and studios in that field to take photos and then it happened that they gradually became great enthusiasts of this form of art.

Creating an art park

Their enthusiasm went so far that they decided to quit their current jobs and start working on the realization of a park where ITE art would be exposed.

A daring undertaking indeed. The two initiators also thought so .....

Anyway, they bought a wooded site of two hectares near Kaukasten and began working on this project in November 2022. 

The site included an old, abandoned farmhouse and a barn, that needed to be renovated. But these buildings also included many old items that could be used. There is also a beautiful apple orchard.

Now, almost a year and a half after the start of the project, the park is beginning to take the shape that the two initiators had in mind. The existing accommodations have been renovated and made suitable to receive visitors, provide refreshments, repairing bicycles and so on.

Paths have been laid out, along which visitors can take a walk to take a look at.....well, that is the most surprising happening of the past period:.....various ITE artists have contributed in many ways to enriching the park with sculptures and other creations, both for permanent placement in the park and for contributions to intended stand-alone exhibitions.

Meanwhile, the park already has a large number of sculptures. For example, the family of ITE artist Pekka Lampinen donated sculptures and other work to the park after his death, a gesture based on the expectation that they will be better maintained in the park then in their own environment.

The second photo from the top shows an airplane painted in many colors, a creation by ITE-artist Paula Huhtanen.

The three-time chainsaw champion Juha Käkelä contributed some image-defining works, namely Big Foot and Green Man.

Big Foot, pictured above, now accompanies the large Middle of Nowhere nameplate seen in the photo at the very top.

The Green Man, pictured above Big Foot, is a large pine that grew on the property and had to be felled. This tree had a rare three-armed top and, after being processed by Käkelä , is now exhibited in an inverted position as a three-meter-high Green Man with a triple beard. 

The Green Man, usually depicted with a face made of leaves and the like, is a legendary creature, often seen as a symbol of rebirth or the dawn of spring.

The park now has a collection of almost a hundred sculptures and other creations, made by about twenty artists. They are partly located in the vicinity of the main building where refreshments are available, and partly along the recently constructed walking path as shown in the photo above.

Photos of the creations can also be seen on the Facebook site of the art park, but given the atmosphere provided by the wooded area, there is a lot to be said for seeing the creations in reality

The opening season will feature all artists who have so far been nominated for ITE artist of the year. They are presented on the park's website

* Article (September 2023) in Finnish journal Helsingin Uutiset

* Video (December 2020, YouTube, 1'54") by Middle of Nowhere

Teijo Monni and Pertti Riikonen
Middle of Nowhere Art park
Koskenmaantie 187,
village of Kaukaasa, part of Hyvinkää, region Uusimaa, Finland
park will be open for the public from June 29, 2024

April 12, 2024

Anonymous, Mini vodní mlýny obydlené pohádkovými postavami / Mini watermills populated by fairytale characters

all pictures courtesy of Justyna Orlovska,
from her website Off the Beaten Track

On her website Off the Beaten Track, which has existed since 2013, Justyna Orlovska describes deserted and unusual places she encounters on her travels through various European countries. 

It often happens that she discovers creations that are also worth mentioning in a blog about art environments. 

Recently an article appeared on her website about miniature watermills along a stream in the Czech Republic. 

In terms of the field of art environments, such miniatures belong to the category of singular architecture.

 So a signaling of her article about these creations fits in with this weblog.

The two miniature watermills are located in a wooded area in the Havlíčkův Brod District in the Czech Republic. Who made the creations isn't clear and where they exactly are located is deliberately not stated, this because of the vulnerability of the creations.

The wooden miniature watermills are decorated with small sculptures depicting all kinds of Czech fairytale characters. 

A surprising feature of these figures is that they make movements, driven by a paddle wheel in the flowing stream.

Watch the video below and enjoy the scene !

Miniature scenes with all kinds of characters moving on flowing water are rare in the field of art environments. In my blog a post is dedicated to Vincent Navratil who put together such a creation in the community of Vir, also located in the Czech Republic

* Article (April 2, 2024) by Justyna Orlovska on her website Off the Beaten Track

* Video (April 2024, YouTube, 3'08") by Justyna Orlovska

Mini watermills populated by fairytale characters
hidden somewhere in the 
Havlíčkův Brod District, Vysočina region, Czech Republic

April 05, 2024

Raoul Cardo, Cardoland parc d'attractions / Cardoland amusement park

this image (2018) by Benoit Prieur, published here under 
license of Creative Commons CCO 1.0

The road sign near the village of Chamoux in eastern France in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region indicates that Cardo Land is nearby. an area with an art environment composed of dozens of sculptures, mainly of prehistoric animals, handmade by Raoul Cardo. 

It is a complex that became one of the first amusement parks in France.

Life and works

The parents of Raoul Cardo, who was born October 28, 1924 in the  Spanish city of Bujalance in the Andalusia region, were prominent in the Spanish art world. His mother, Emelina Torres, was a renowned dancer and his father was a professor of fine arts in Madrid.

At an early age the boy would come into contact with this world, like it happened when he was five years old, that he accompanied his mother on a trip to Paris, where she had to appear as a dancer in a film. This happened more often when she had to perform elsewhere in Europe.

unless indicated otherwise, this image and the 
next ones are published here in agreement with
Francis David, as on website Habitants-Paysagistes LAM

In addition to what he learned at primary school, he gained all kinds of knowledge of the art world through those travels, which was also supplemented by lessons that his father gave him on this topic.

In the 1930s a civil war raged in Spain and in this context, in 1938, Raoul Cardo's father was murdered by Spanish troops. His mother decided to migrate to France with her children. Raoul was 14 years old at the time.

In Paris he could become a novice dancer with a theater company, where he mainly expressed himself in flamenco dance, but also as a novice choreographer. From 1948 onwards Cardo wrote ballets for which he created the sets and costumes.

The highlight of his career as a dancer was when he became principal dancer at the Paris Opera. He also appeared in a number of films, including one in which he teaches flamenco to Brigitte Bardot.

On the way to an amusement park

Raoul Cardo was broadly oriented artistically. In addition to his activities in the field of dance, he made paintings, drew comics and did architectural work.

In 1967, when he was in his early 40s, he added a new hobby: creating life-size prehistoric animals, made by adding a layer of cement to a properly shaped infrastructure of iron wire.

He started this hobby with the idea that one day he could set up a place with an exhibition of these creatures from the past. 

The choice of this hobby may also be related to the fact that he was now in his early forties, an age at which a career in the dance world generally ends. (The exact moment when Cardo stopped dancing is not available on the internet).

In the 1970s, Cardo and his family left Paris to move to the hamlet of Moulin Granard, part of the village of Gâcogne in the Morvan region. There he had the necessary space to store the sculptures of prehistoric animals. The thought of opening a park for those creations must have occupied him more and more.

In 1981 the idea became reality when, aged 57, he moved to Chamoux, a village some 40 km north of Moulin Granard. 

Just outside Chamoux, along the departmental road D951, he had bought a 10 hectare plot of land.

the entrance of the park (as on Google Streetview)

In 1984, the Jurassic Park called Cardo Land was officially opened. It included more than 80 life-size sculptures of prehistoric animals and people.

Cardo would manage the park for the first 25 years.

From the opening of the park, visitors could follow a walking path of more than 900 meters that leads past the sculptures. From the beginning of the park there was also a cave with decorations made by Cardo, a spot reminiscent of the Lascaux caves.

There are all kinds of activities for children, such as drawing, painting and sculpting, but also assisting with the "birth" of baby dinosaurs.

After Cardo died in 2009, the park was managed and run by his wife, children and now also his grandchildren. The park is therefore still a business run by the Cardo family.

In 2019, at the initiative of Cardo's daughter Mélusine, a new presentation was added to the park's activities, the so-called Prehistoric Circus

This is a performance of over an hour with all kinds of demonstrations and acrobatic equestrian sports by Mélusine and other family members. 

A special event is also the appearance of family members dressed as dinosaurs, who perform an act that appeals to the audience.

* Website of Cardoland
Tripadvisor with more than a hundred photos

* Video (2020) from Facebook with a short impression of the Prehistoric Circus show 

Raoul Cardo
Cardo Land  amusement park
35 Rue Principale (=Departmental route D951)
89660 Chamoux dept Yonne, region Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France
open from July 1 to August 31

March 29, 2024

Dominique Zanardi, Musée de le Bataille de la Somme / Battle of the Somme Museum

this image from the Facebook-account of
Le Tommy, Café du Souvenir

At first glance, the building in the image above looks like an average café-restaurant, but upon closer inspection one sees that it not only bears the name Le Tommy, but is also referred to as Musée 1914-1918. 

The building is located in Poziéres, a village with a few hundred inhabitants in the Somme region in the north of France. More than a hundred years ago, this part of France was hit by the First World War, which in the Somme area was mainly a trench war. However, around Poziéres from 25 July to 7 August 1916 the war turned into a gigantic battle that led to many deaths and almost completely destroyed the village.

In the Somme area there are numerous memorial monuments and cemeteries dedicated to this war, Dominique Zanardi, owner of the café-restaurant, has made in his own way a special contribution to this series of places dedicated to memories of World War I.

a view of the area behind the cafe that was transformed in trenches
this image and the next six are screenprints from the 
first video in the documentation

Life and works

Zanardi was born in the early 1960s in Albert, a town located 7 km south-west of Poziéres. This city also houses an official Museum about the war in the Somme area.

At the age of twelve he started exploring the fields where the war had raged, in order to collect scraps of metal, which he sold to the local scrap dealer. That's how he got money to buy a nice moped.

On his trips through the former war zone he met visitors from England, who told him about the war that had raged there. They showed him the cemeteries and told him about the soldiers who belonged to their family. 

Young Dominique, who had learned some English at school, became increasingly proficient in speaking English and he got first-hand information about what had happened during those war years.

After his younger years he would continue to avidly collect items reminiscent of the war in the Somme region. Shovels, pieces of grenade, other ammunition, rifles, cannons, it became an extensive collection.

He went to work in the world of cafes and restaurants. The most important moment came in 1995. when he, around 35 years old, took over the Café de la Victoire, which had existed in Pozières since 1922.

Reopened in 1996 as Café-restaurant Le Tommy, this place, where visitors were welcome, offered him every opportunity to do something with his collection of memorabilia relating to the Somme war.

The indoor space became partly a museum about the war and the outdoor space was transformed into a faithful replica of a trench area.

The trench area

The four photos above and the three below give an impression of the outdoor area at the rear of the café-restaurant, where the world of the war is depicted on a life-size scale.

The image at the very top shows that the terrain is so extensive that the trenches, which include both those of Germany and those of the Allies, with no man's land in between, can be depicted realistically.

The next two images show a cannon and the collection of thousands of grenade casings, meticulously stacked together along a wall. The use of grenades during the battle in and around Pozières was very intense, sometimes 140 grenades fell in a single minute.

The next image of a soldier with a gun shows how much Zanardi was able to portray this person realistically. The barricades made of coils of iron wire in the following image also demonstrate this ability to express the reality of trench warfare.

Finally, the two images around give an impression of the way in which the trenches themselves are depicted. 

Here too, one is struck by the specific feelings of constriction that the creations convey.

The interior

The image below shows part of the interior of the museum attached to the cafe-restaurant. The walls are filled with gigantic black and white photos of soldiers and there are all kinds of weapons.

The bar in the the cafe-restaurant is standing on grenade casings.

Visitors from Australia

The group of Allied soldiers stationed near Pozieres during the Somme war, was part of the Australian army, which means that many of the visitors to the Café-restaurant/Museum are from Australia.

a view of the interior
image from the Facebook page of Le Tommy

* Article (January 2018) in journal Ouest-France, with pictures of the site
* Article (February 2024) in journal France Bleu, also with pictures 
* Article on Wikipedia with details about the battle of Pozières
* Facebook account of Le Tommy, Café du Souvenir
* Tripadvisor has a series of photos of the café and the site 

* Video (2013, YouTube, 2'57") by Stuart Curry


* Another video (February 2024, YouTube, 4'25"), with recent scenes of the trenches

Dominique Zanardi
Musée de le Bataille de la Somme
91 Route d’Albert
80300 Pozières, dept Somme, region Hauts de France, France
visitors welcome

March 22, 2024

SirkkaTurkki, Ruusulinna Taidepuisto / Art park Rose Castle

pictures are screenprints from the first video in the documentation,
published here in agreement with the maker Sirkka Turkki

On the southern coast of Finland in the Uusimaa region, about 35 kilometers east of Helsinki. there is the municipality of Porvoo. It is the second oldest city in Finland, currently with around 50.000 inhabitants, about a third of whom have Swedish as their mother tongue.

The information panel shown above, installed along the Sillvikintie road, in the outskirts of the municipality, indicates that there is an art environment at that location.

Life and works

This art environment, referred to as Ruusulinna Taidepuisto (Art Park Rose Castle) was developed from the early 2000s by Sirkka Turkki, who was born in the mid-1940s.

After primary and secondary school, she studied at the University of Helsinki and at the JAMK University of Applied Science in Jyvaskyla in Central Finland, where she became familiar with applied arts. 

Equipped with this knowledge, she was able to become a teacher in areas such as art education and creative activities, but she was also active in the field of physiotherapy. In addition to her professional work, she was also active as a poet, a painter and a ceramist.

In the early 2000s, while looking for a summer home, she found the spot where the art environment has now emerged, an outdoor area that also included a country house that had been unused for years and needed major renovation.

The two-hectare area which exudes a pleasant wooded atmosphere, now also houses a guest house and there are four different outbuildings, which are now full with a variety of creations. made by Sirkka Turkki over the course of her life.

As the image above shows, there is a large miniature city filled with a large number of handmade wooden houses, which is set up in the living room of the country house. All these buildings were made from pieces of wood from a wooden wall near an old farm.

There is also a collection of masks, as shown above left, which fills a section of the wall of one of the buildings.

The images above and below right show parts of the extensive collection of ceramics that SirkkaTurkki has produced over the years.

Finally, the image at the bottom left shows the collection of marionettes and glove puppets, hanging on a wall.

Indoors, the walls are decorated with drawings and paintings made by Sirkka Turkki, in short, a large number of forms of artistic expression are generously represented in this art environment.

Below, to conclude the variety of indoor creations, is another image of a sculpture of a lady, who looks a bit like Sirka Turkki.

The two images below give an impression of the creative constructions that adorn the outdoor space, first a collection of bird heads on sticks, and then an arrangement of arches, axes and other decorations on trees.

In the outdoor area there are also spatial works of art that depict world religions, fairy tales and myths.

Sirkka Turkki, now in her late seventies, so far had a varied and versatile life. For example, she gave more than two hundred readings of the poetry she wrote. 

Another noteworthy activity of hers is that she volunteered at an orphanage in Nepal, where, during a trip through the area, she took the opportunity to free young girls from the slavery in which they had ended up. They were admitted to the orphanage, now have an independent existence and Sirkka Turkki is still in contact with some of them.

* Article (June 2022) on the website of newspaper Itäväylä
* Article by Heini Heikkilä on the website of MSL. the Finnish National Cultural Association
* Another entry on the MSL website, with some photos of the art environment

* Video (2022, YouTube, 5'25") by Sirkka Turkki

* Video (September 2023, YouTube, 2'45")  by Maasedun

Art park Rose Castle,
Sillvikintie 172,
06750 Porvoo, Uusimaa region, Finland
the site can be visited In the summer, 
visits of individuals or groups (max 6 persons) must be arranged in advance (see info).
small entrance fee

March 15, 2024

Colin Stokes, Colin's barn

pictures are screenprints from the videos in the documentation

The complex of buildings pictured above partly includes living space and for a larger part stables and storage facilities for hay. It is located in an area of grass near the hamlet of Chedglow, part of the village of Crudwell with about 1000 inhabitants in the Wiltshire region, about 85 miles west of London.

Life and works

This complex, known as Colin's Barn, or Hobbit House, was created by Colin Stokes, who was born in 1945 and who not only became skilled in making stained glass windows, but also went into farming as a keeper of a flock of sheep.

To properly care for his flock of sheep, in 1989 he built with his own hands a simple rectangular sheepfold, using chunks of Cotswold stone found lying around in the surrounding field.

This was the start of a construction project that would keep him busy in the years that followed. His singular architecture was built of stacked stones, decorated with cement on the inside to provide strength.

He built a hay warehouse and other structures functional to his business, but he also created -as depicted in above image- a two-story living area where he could stay with his flock when necessary.

The images of this temporary accommodation structure show that the shelter was higher and more extensive than all other structures.
The building had two floors and was equipped with turrets and dovecotes. Inside there was a spiral staircase from the ground floor to the first floor, where also was a simple bedroom, which Stokes could use to spend the night during the lambing season.

And then there were all kinds of narrow stairs, fences and attics, all constructed single-handedly.

The images above and below show that Stokes  had artistic skills, which allowed him to provide some rooms with beautifully decorated arches and windows inlaid with stained glass. 

The information available on the internet does not indicate whether Stokes had any professional training in this regard.

In 2000, a marble quarry was opened near Colin Stokes building. The noise that this business entailed prompted him reluctantly selling his property and moving elsewhere, leaving his project in the good condition it was in at the time.

In 2013 it was reported that Stokes, then aged 68, was farming sheep, poultry and angora rabbits near Moffat in Scotland. 

As far as is known, Stokes died in 2021

The barn is a little difficult to find, and is on private land. The current owner of the site does not appreciate visitors and chases them away when he is around. A sign discourages visitors, but it doesn’t seem to work, because there are various reviews from visitors on the internet.

* Article on website Atlas Obscura
* Article (November 2013) on Mail Online
Article (January 2021 by Hugh Williams, with pictures that give a good impression of the stacked stones in Stokes' creations

* Video (4'52", May 2021, YouTube) by RPM Adventure

Video (17'41", 2022, YouTube) by Partners of the Forgotten World

Colin Stokes
Colin's barn
Chedglow, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
address not available
visitors not welcome

March 08, 2024

Abbé Clovis Vannobel and anonymous workmen, Décoration du pavillon des Iris / Iris pavilion decoration

this image and the next two as on the website
Habitants-Paysagistes, published here in agreement with the
photographer Francis David

The facade decorated with a tree as shown above can be seen in a street in the municipality of Steenwerck, a little town with some 3400 inhabitants, located in North West France, near the border with Belgium. 

In the field of art environments the town is known for Arthur Vanabelle's La ferme aux avions (The airplane farm), a site located in the outskirts of the municipality until around 2015. The local Musée de la vie rurale (Museum of rural life) was donated a representative number of creations after Vanabelle's death.

The building with the decorated wall was built on the site of a hotel that was destroyed during the First World War. Subsequently, two breweries were built on the site, which went bankrupt during the Second World War. A director of one of the breweries had a country house there.

After the war, the complex was purchased by a social organization led by Abbot Clovis Vannobel, in order to establish there a rest home for women, initially only in the director's house, then also in one of the breweries after it had been renovated.

the abbot is depicted among the branches

The part of the rest home in the director's house was named Les Iris, referring to the numerous flowers of this species that bloomed in the nearby park-like grounds.

Restoring the facade

In the early 1970s, the facade of the Pavilion Les Iris was restored. Then it was given its characteristic decoration with a tree, an idea by Abbot Vannobel who saw the shape in his imagination.

Two workers, who did maintenance work for the rest home, helped realize the idea. The wall was treated with linseed oil and zinc white was used to make the wall nice and smooth. After the preparatory work, a sketch of the tree was drawn on the wall and colored in a dark shade against a light blue speckled background.

It turned out to be a successful project that is still present today.

After the rest home closed in 1976 due to financial problems, the municipality of Steenwerck became owner of the buildings. Some were converted into apartments and other accommodations. 

The Pavillon des Iris was completely restored and refurbished. Since 2010 it houses the regional tourist office.

Abbé Clovis Vannobel and anonymous workmen
Iris pavilion decoration
3 Grande Rue
Steenwerck, dept Nord, region Hauts-de-France, France
can be seen from the street