By publishing a post, embellished with a picture of Fernand Chatelain's sculpture Bonjour aux promeneurs, this weblog on November 11, 2008 joined the world of digital media. In that first post I said that the idea behind the weblog was to raise awareness of creations such as the one made by Picassiette.
On a holiday in the late 1990s I had visited Picassiette’s mosaic decorated house in Chartres, France, and this inspired me to search the internet for comparable sites.
So it seemed like a good idea to fill this gap and share my information in a weblog about sites in Europe, writing in english to reach both an American, a European and an international audience, with a focus on inventory and documentation of these sites.
So I started a weblog I named Outsider Environments Europe.
Why Outsider Environments?
Sites such as the one by Picassiette in the United States often are referred to as visionary environments or art environments. So the term environment is fairly common to refer to these creative settings.
Since I was particularly interested in the creative activities of people without a professional artistic background, I added the term outsider as it occurs in outsider art, and the definition can then be:
An outsider environment arises when someone without relevant professional training embellishes his/her place of living -usually in a quite exuberant way- with decorations, paintings, mosaics, sculptures and/or structures/installations, in general working on such a project for many years and with a lot of passion.
In this blog I use the term outsider because of its association with outsider art. With this term I refer to non-professionals in visual art, sculpting or architecture or people without a relation with these fields.
In 2008, when this blog started, there was no discussion about eventual discriminatory aspects of the term outsider, nor was it argued that outsider art as such does not exist, let alone that outsider art was trending within the official art world, as happened in the late 2010s.
Although most people presented in this blog are non-professionals indeed, it may happen that I write about someone who was educated in an art school, but then kept far away from the art world, like Chomo, or was not accepted by the art establishment, like Karl Junker.
Place of living
A place of living mostly will be a private house and/or a private garden, yard or other plot of land near the house. In a small number of cases it could be the community where the maker resides (François Michaud from Masgot, the Naveira brothers from Betanzos, Bukashkin from Yekaterinburg), or a nearby forest/natural area seen as habitat (Rapeau, Pujiula, Wilson)
Someone who makes an outsider environment can do this because he or she later in life wants to realize a childhood dream, wants to have something to do when retired, wants to make something beautiful, is inspired because of a dream, follows a vision, wants to convince fellow citizens of a religious view, wants to show that ordinary people can perform something great, and often these creators say they just stumbled into their project.
In general these people have no ambition to become a famous artist or earn a lot of money with their creations.
Indeed. people who create outsider environments in general do not start such a project to make money out of it. Maybe they appreciate a small donation from eventual visitors to compensate the costs they incur, but the creations in general are not for sale and are not made to be sold.
Some outsider environments however have become famous and turned into touristic spots (after the author died) and this may result in a nice financial contribution to the local economy (Facteur Cheval, Picassiette).
My blog is about creative activities, so my frame of reference is cultural, and not political or economic ¹.
Geographically speaking Europe is the landmass stretching from the Urals² in Russia to the Atlantic Ocean (including islands in the Atlantic Ocean like Mallorca and Iceland). From a broad cultural point of view the countries on that landmass have a lot of common characteristics.
So in my blog I will deal with environments which are located in these countries.
In a number of cases I will be prudent in giving details of the specific location of an environment, especially when its author wants to remain anonymous. Indeed, I have refrained from writing about people who have indicated they do not want to be named in media.
And then I will be careful when a site is a sculpture garden which can easily be visited by people with wrong intentions. Outsider art nowadays has become a valuable and theft of smaller items has occurred.
An article in Rivista Bric-à-Brac
The second issue of the Spanish webzine Rivista Bric-à-Brac (July 2019, p 111-125) has an article I contributed entitled Reviewing art environments in the digital age, in which I present this blog in the context of reviewing sites before and after the digital revolution.
A text by Jo Farb Hernández
In September 2019 Jo Farb Hernández gave a lecture at a cultural center in Zaragoza, Spain, part of which was devoted to the meaning of the concept "art environment", a term that I would now rather use than "outsider environment". This text has been published on my website OEE-texts.
¹ The many appearances of Europe in as far as states formally co-operate, have been depicted in a "map" (March 2011) on the website Strange Maps
² Strictly speaking the Russian city Yekaterinburg is located in the Asian part of Russia, but the city considers itself European, so I have inserted articles about art environments in this city and the neighbouring city of Berezovsky.