October 11, 2017

Józef Chelmowski, Muzeum na świeżym powietrzu/Open air museum

Although Poland has a vivid array of artists and institutes in the field of folk art, the concept art environment is almost unknown, partly because creations in this field are not very common in that country.

But Poland certainly knows art environments. For example Chelmowski's site, in Poland referred to as open air museum.

Life and works

Józef Chełmowski (1934-2013) was born in a family of farmers in Brusy Jagli, a small community
in the north-west of Poland.

He grew up in the tradition and values transmitted in his family from generation to generation and all his life in his daily conversation he would speak Kashubian, the language of old in the area in northern Poland where he lived.

Already as a young boy at school he liked painting and sculpting. The teacher let him do this. "He gave me freedom, so I worked and painted. Nobody taught me, the teacher was not capable of teaching me. I had to discover it all by myself", as Chelmowski says in the video with english subtitles in the documentation below .

Chelmowski amidst the paintings in his house

He completed his primary education, but could not pursue further studies because of illness and the need to assist his parents in running the farm.

Chelmowski later had a variety of jobs, such as ticket-controller in a cinema, porter, lab technician or bee-keeper. But throughout all these years, as a self-taught artist he remained active in painting and sculpting, mainly creating works on religious, philosophical, moral or patriotic themes.

He became a versatile artist, who not only designed visual art,  but also wrote a number of books and constructed installations, such as a Machine for capturing the elements.

In 1972, when he was in his late thirties, he decided to share his work with the outside world and he submitted it to the competition folk sculpture of Northern Poland.  His work was appreciated and since then he has participated in all major events in the field of folk art in Poland.

Chelmowski's fame as a folk artist grew.

Currentl various Polish regional museums have his work in their collection, such as the Ethnographic Museum in Toruń, the Western-Kashubian Museum in Bytow and the Leon Wyczolkowski Regional Museum in Bydgoszcz, which has the largest collection (some 500 works), including Chelmowski's imposant creation the Apocalyps, a 55 meter long and one meter high painting depicting scenes of  John's biblical story.

Creating an art environment

In the late 1970's Chelmoswki began transforming the garden at the backside of the parental home into an art environment. In the mid 1990's, when Chelmoski's fame began to spread widely in Poland, the site began to attract visitors, initially from Poland, but later also from Germany and Scandiavian countries.

A number of walls of the interior spaces were gradually fully filled with his paintings. In the interior one also finds his illustrated books.

In some rooms all sorts of tools and household items were gathered that had to do with daily life in former days, such as old radios, telephones and gramophones, farm equipment, but also old-fashioned billboards.

The garden at the backside of the house includes a large collection of Chelmowsi's woodwork.

Very prominent are the small road chapels, arranged in parallel rows. These wayside shrines (przydrożne kapliczki) are a well known and widespread phenomenon in Poland.

Chelmowski has delivered many of such little chapels on order, but it is very satisfying that in the garden a large number of these creations have met.

The garden also includes beehives and a variety of sculptures depicting saints, angels. farmers, robbers

The exterior walls of the house and the outbuildings are decorated with frescoes. One of these frescoes has the inscription Światło Czas Duch wlada życie which as far as I understand means Light, Time, Spirit, its life....

The entrance of the house is decorated with paintings and carvings. The tympan above the door contains sculptures of Pythagoras, Copernicus and Archimedes..

In 2006 Chelmowski was honored with a Polish cultural award, the silver medal of Gloria Artis.

He passed away in 2013.

After his death his widow Jadwiga Chelmoswki, assisted by other members of the family, took care of the open air museum.

A heavy storm in august 2017 caused damage

In the night of August 11, 2017, house and garden were hit by a heavy storm that caused damage to the house and fences. The works of art have been spared for a significant part, but it has been shown how vulnerable they are.

A crowdfunding action has been initiated to perform the necessary repairs and provide a basis for systematically maintaining the creations

* Video by the Muzeum Nardodowe w Gdansku (8'02", You Tube, uploaded march 2011)

* Video by ostanceprobs 3'28",You Tube, march 2011

Józef Chelmoswki
Open air museum
Główna 15, 17
89-632 Brusy-Jaglie (Czyczkowy), Pommern, Poland
visitors welcome

September 23, 2017

Vitaliy Nikolaevich Cherepanov, Усадьба Черепанова/Cherepanov Manor

wooden ladies and the artist (2017)

Three wooden sculptures of well-dressed ladies welcome visitors at Cherepanov's art environment which he began to create in 2001 when he got retired and settled with his wife in the community of Visim (Sverdlovsk region, Russia).

Life and works

Born in the late 1930's or early 1940's in Ilyinka in the Kirov region, Vitaliy Nikolaevich Cherepanov already at a young age showed a talent for creative as well as technical activities. Growing up in a rural environment in difficult times, as a young boy he for example made his own wooden toys.

As a young man he got a job as a tractor driver and mechanic in the agricultural sector, working there until he was conscripted in the military and for some four years was encamped in Kamchatka in the far east of Russia, where he was a mechanic on a submarine.

After military service Cherepanov settled in the 1960's in the city of Nizhny Tagil, an industrial center in the Middle Urals in the Sverdlovsk region. Here he got a job at a company in the field of metallurgy.

And here he also met his future wife, Nina Mihailovna, who has an artistic talent in embroidery.

In his free time Cherepanov made wooden sculptures, paintings and decorations for the interior of his house. He also got some local fame by converting a normal Russian car (a Zaporozehets ) in a semi-sporty car of fairly modern design.

When Cherepanov got retired from work, the couple preferred to change the busy city for a more rural environment. So in 2001 they moved to the small community of Visim, some 50 kms south-west of Nizhny Tagil (of which the village also is an administrative part).

Here Cherepanov found both the time and the space to fully express his creative talent. 

this picture and the next two from touristic website Go To Ural

Creating an art environment

Cheperanov's creative activities brought a major transformation of his house and garden about.

The elongated roof of the living house was fully decorated with a painting in pastel colors depicting a rural landscape.

The exterior walls of the house and the gazebo were decorated with a variety of sculpted woodworks.

These consist of illustrative scenes, such as in above picture the portrayal in high relief of a couple enjoying a drink, alternated with decorations with various geometric patterns, as often can be seen on old Russian farmhouses.

In front of one of the walls two life-size wooden warriors or guards with swords are posted.

a firebird

One aspect of Cherepanov's artistic activity gives this art environment its own specific signature: the series of life-sized wooden sculptures that are mainly derived from beloved Russian fairytales.

So the various stories about the firebird, depicted above, often have to do with a hero leaving for a difficult quest after finding a beatiful feather of a bird.

this picture and the next two: edited screen prints
from the second video referred to in the documentaton

And above pictured Pinocchio, originally a character in a book for children by the Italian author Carlo Collodi, published in 1883, also became a well known character, not least because of the Walt Disney movie that featured him.

Other wooden sculptures include personalities that occur mainly in Russian stories, such as the lady in above picture. With her purse and outdated hat she probably is the old lady Shapoklyak, a character in a story by Eduard Uspensky. Her name is derived from the French name for a specific hat: the chapeau claque.

The crocodile with the accordeon probably refers to a fairy tale by Korei Chukovsky, published in Russia in 1919 with the title Приключения Крокодила Крокодиловича (The adventures of crocodile Crocodile).

Cherepanov's wooden personalites also include characters from daily life, such as in above picture, which might depict the local postman on his daily round.

Actual situation

Begun in 2001, the site currently has become an integral part of the local community. Chereparov and his wife are respected inhabitants of the village and Chereparov even was awarded the title of honorary citizen of the community.

The site attracts a lot of interested visitors, both from Russia and abroad, who often receive a warm welcome.

A museum ?

The village of Visim has touristic potential because of its history, its location near a nature reserve and its various sights. The community already has a house-museum, where the Russian author Dmitriy Mamin-Sibiryak lived.

Local authorities have suggested that the manor could also become an official house-museum, but Cherepanov and his wife feared that this would oblige them too much and they rejected the proposal..

* Article (november 2016) on touristic website Nash Ural

Vitaly Nikolaevich Cherepanov
Cherepanov Manor
Kalinina Street 64
Visim, Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk region, Russia
visitors are welcome
link to Google Maps

September 19, 2017

Abel Malgouyres, Monuments à petite echelle/Small scale monuments

view from the road (around 2013)

Driving in the Aveyron area in France on the departmental road D285 from Belcastel  to Mayran, after some 2.5 km one sees at the right side of the road above pictured scene, with small scale replicas of monumental structures.

It's not difficult to recognise the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Tromphe. Left of the Arc is the Pyramid of Cheops.

Life and works

These buildings form part of an art environment created by Abel Malgouyres, about whom the internet has no biographical information. Pictures show him like a man of age. A visitor of the site says he is a very nice person, who is delighted when people are interested in his creations.

The site contains in particular a number of replicas, partly of world-famous structures, partly of regional ones.

So there is the replica of the Eiffel Tower, but also (below, to the right) the tower of Ruffepeyre in nearby Mayran, which forms part of a monastery barn that belonged to the Bonnecombe Abbey in the community of Comps-la-Grand-Ville, some 40 km south-east of this art environment.

Apart from making replicas of towers and monumental buildings, Malgouyres also made replicas of a couple of bridges.

Pictured below is a bridge which as the accompanying plate says is le pont de la rivière Kwai (the bridge on the river Kwai). Based upon a French book by Pierre Boulle published in 1952, the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai appeared on screen in 1957 and became a great succes (If Malgouyres has seen the film as a young man, he now must be in his late seventies).

Malgouyres' chef d'oeuvre is the six meters long replica pictured below of the bridge over the Aveyron river in Belcastel, in reality a 57 meters long structure,  which was built in the 15th century and currently is classified as a historical monument.

Pictured below is an ensemble referred to as Les quatre tours, conisting of a small bridge and four small-scale towers.

Malgouyres' art environment also includes a number of creations that depict small-scale scenes with an anecdotical or humouristic character.

Here are some examples:

le Bao Bar....

......with an accordeon player

a guitar player next to two very small turrets

As self-taught artists who create art environments in France sometimes are referred to as les inspirés du bord des routes (the inspired of the roadsides), Malgouyres certainly belongs to this group, all the more now his creation extends along the departmental road and can be observed from that road


Abel Malgouyres
Small scale monuments
Le Bruel
12390 Mayran, Aveyron, Occitanie region,
can be seen from the road

September 12, 2017

Evelyne Dantel, Les petits jardins d'Eve/The small gardens of Eve

view of the garden from the house
pictures courtesy of Evelyne Dantel and.Sophie Lepetit

The field of art environments in France has an interesting history with regard to self-taught artists who decorate their house and garden with mosaic.

It's a history that involves various generations.

Before the second world war Ismaël and Guy Villéger were at its beginning when in 1937 they began decorating the exterior of their restaurant. They were followed by Raymond Isidore (aka Picassiette) who in 1938 began decorating his house.

After the war and in the 1950's a postwar generation appeared with M. Dulong (1945 >), François Portrat (1945 >), Aldo Gandini (1950 >), Robert Vasseur (1952 >), Leopold Truc (1955 >) and Euclide da Costa Ferreira (1955 >).

The 1980's, 1990's and the early years 2000 saw another generation with Renée Bodin (aka Hurfane) (1980 >), Jean-Michel Chesné (1997 >) and Catherine Moreno (2002 >)

This post introduces Evelyne Dantel, who represents the contemporary generation.

Life and works

Born in 1964 in Nevers, France, Evelyne Dantel after primary education studied psychology at the Faculté de Dyon, in the Bourgogne region

She got a job as a clinical psychologist at a specialized hospital in La Charité-sur-Loire, a historical town of some 5000 inhabitants situated along the Loire river in Burgundy, France.
Living in a small community in the rural area around La Charité, Evelyne's house has a fairly large garden. Around 2011 she began transforming house and garden into an art environment, both by adding mosaics to the various walls of the house and by embellishing the garden with a variety of sculptures, installations and other creative elements.

These creations were situated in various compartments of the garden which can be distinguished as petit jardins (small gardens), each with an own character.

the "jardin des têtes" (garden of the heads)
So at the left behind side of the garden one finds the jardin des têtes (the garden of the heads), a circular arrangement of heads, which was finished around august 2016.

garden gate

Another element is the garden gate with sides formed by wheels previously used in agriculture, all single-handedly welded together. This gate was finished may 2016.

On the picture on top of this post one also sees a couple of multicolored, winding snakes, which approach a blue wall, the mur aux seins (the breast wall), created in earlier years.

Decorated walls

The walls of the living house have been decorated with colorful mosaic, such as above artwork situated along a staircase on a corner of the building. The small pictures below show some details

These mosaics are made with pieces of tiles, broken crockery, shells, pebbles, pearls or buttons.

A dragon in a blue context on a wall is an impressive appearance.

Recent additions to this art environment include the couple of  horses shown in the picture above, and the tree below (left as it was early september 2017, right as it was when finished in october 2017).

Evelyne Dantel's art environment has gradually become known via Facebook and in june 2016 and june 2017 the garden was open to the public on the occasion of a national open day of cultural sites organized by the French Ministry of Culture.

recently created sculptures shed a glance over the breast wall

* Evelyne Dantel on Facebook
* Articles in Sophie Lepetit's weblog of may 31, 2017 and june 2, 2017 (details)

Evelyne Dantel
Les petits jardins d’Eve
165 chemin des grands prés
58400 Chazué/Raveau, region Bourgogne/Franche-Comté, France
can be visited on open days

September 08, 2017

Парк Живых и Мёртвых/Park of the living and the dead

In the Ukrainian city Dnipropetrovsk an area that for some 200 years was used as a graveyard, in 1970 was transformed into a public parc. Denoted by the name Amurskiy Park, it is generally known as Park of the living and the dead.

The site has an eventful history. During World War II the graveyard was used as a place to perform excecutions, with victims among hostages and Jewish and Roma families. It has been said it was another Babi Yar ¹.

In the 1990's the site became a place where people dumped their waste, which was not or insufficiently countered by the authorities. The site probably hasn't an official status as a city park.

From the perspective of this weblog it is special that from 2003 on a large collection of sculptures made by self-taught artists was added to the park's grounds.

This was done by members of the local Roma community Tarna Egor, led by Raisa Ivanovna Kuznetsova, who in an interview (2009) with Dmitry Desyaterik explains that the group first had to clean the area, where meanwhile large quantities of waste had been deposited and where it smelled terribly.

Then they placed benches and tables and planted flowers and bushes.

The stand alone sculptures and ensembles were made by indvidual self-taught artists, who used a common technical approach of applying cement or clay on an iron or wooden frame.

It became a project of some ten years, which ultimately resulted in a collection of some 200 sculptures, partly rather varied with respect to what was represented, for another part also sculptures  reflecting a specific theme.

Thematic approaches

One of this themes concerns memories to the second world war, with sculptures of soldiers with machine guns, a soldier sleeping forever in the grass, or nurses helping the injured.

The pictures above, a limited selection of what is drawn up in the park, give an idea of the realistic character of the sculptures dealing with the war.

Another theme that can be distinguished, concerns a series of sculptures with a religious connotation
The scene in the picture above, depicting Holy Mary grieving for the dead Christ, is situated in a central spot of the park, as can be seen in the picture on top of this post, which also shows that Maria is flanked by a couple of angels kneeling and praying.

Another scene, in the picture below, depicts Maria Magdalena and a roman soldier

Furthermore there are numerous sculptures in the park that depict biblical scenes such as the worship of the wise. A 3.5 m high sculpture depicts archangel Gabriel.

Органный зал (Organ Hall)

Another interesting creation in this category is the Organ Hall pictured above, which on its interior walls has a large painting that depicts Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper. The depicted characters are some 2.5 meters high (see pictures on a weblog on nashizdat.com)

A variety of other sculptures

Apart from the sculptures related to a specific theme, the park includes sculptures with folkloristic scenes, scenes related to fairy tales or scenes depicting well-known social or historical happenings.

a flying saucer indeed, about 3 meters high

The sculptures are falling in decline

Raisa Ivanovna Kuznetsova, who had the leadership of the project for about ten years, passed away in December 2012.

Hereafter the project ended and in the course of time the collection of sculptures began to decay, partly due to the vulnerability of the sculptures and the lack of maintenance, but also because of deliberate destruction and the fact that some residents began to re-use the place as a landfill for waste.

Active groups of citizens in recent years have set up actions to jointly clean the park. However, if the local authorities take no action to protect the artworks, there will be no hope of maintaining the collection in the long run.

According to an article in Dnepr.news (march 2016) the city has budgeted resources for improving the parks, but then the park of the living and the dead first has to get the formal status of a city park.

*A richly illustrated article in two parts (2009) on website Nashizdat.com: part 1 and part 2

¹ Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, where during WWII massacres took place carried out by German forces and Ukrainian collaborators.

Park of the living and the dead
Vitchyznyana Street
Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine
link to Google maps