July 20, 2011

Jean Billon, Sculpted environment

In her weblog Les grigris de Sophie of april 30, 2011, Sophie Lepetit wrote about her visit to Jean Billon, who lives in Beauvoir-sur-Mer in the Vendee area in France. The some 3000 wooden sculptures Billon made since he became retired in 1992, have transformed exterior and interior of his house into an art environment. The following post summarizes Sophie's observations (thanks Sophie!).

Life and works

Jean Billon (1930) was born in Beauvoir in a farmers' family and at seventeen he went to work as a farmhand in Fontenay-le-Comte. He had a variety of jobs, like coal cutter, factory sweeper and porter at a bank, and retired from work in 1992, to settle himself in the community of Beauvoir.

Both by chance and by desire he began making wooden sculptures, using pine and cypress, modelling the wood with a chain saw. It took him time to get grip on this instrument, because as he says "the chainsaw chops and I wanted to sculpt".

Jean Billon has made sculptures in various sizes, big ones like above mobile donkey (which is also available for a ride by young visitors), but also small ones, like owls, pigs, cats, turtles and so on. One of the largest sculptures is a 2.4 meter high ostrich. 

He also depicted all kinds of food and tools, and he produced a number of books, some of these relating personal experiences like surgery he underwent 

Since Jean Billon has a shoulder prosthesis, handling the chainsaw gradually has become problematic, so nowadays he is happy to be surrounded by his "children" and he likes to welcome passersby who stop to take a look at the sculpture garden.

Documentation/more pictures
* The internet has not much documentation of Jean Billon's creative activity. So, in agreement with Sophie Lepetit a translation into english of her april 30, 2010 post has been published on my Outsider Environments Texts website.
Another post on the weblog les grigris de Sophie (august 12, 2011) with new pictures, also of the wooden books

Jean Billon
Sculpted environment
43 chemin du Puits de Riez
85230 Beauvoir-sur-Mer, dept Vendée, region Pays de la Loire, France

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