Google+ House Revivals: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

O is for Outsider Art

Outsider art is a fairly recent term for a genre of art as old as man.   Originally coined as an English translation of the French Art Brut (raw art or rough art), the term "outsider art" has acquired a much broader meaning than "art brut".  The term art brut was specifically coined to describe the art of people who lived  on society's fringes.
 General view of the island Neveranger, 1911, Adolf Wolfli; 
image source wikimedia commons

These people on the fringes were untrained in the arts, often mentally ill, and thought to be uninfluenced by traditional art culture.  The "art brut" artist created his art for himself alone, often keeping his work secret.  To see an explanation of art brut, at the Raw Vision website, click here.
The photo above shows Art Brut artist 
Adolf Wolfli.  Adolf spent much of his
adult life in a Swiss insane asylum after
being judged a danger to society. 
image in the public domain

The connotation for "outsider art" encompasses a much broader category of  artist.  Although still considered to be uninfluenced by traditional art culture, and untrained in the arts, the outsider artist may not live quite so far out on the fringes of society.
This work, by Gaston Chaissac, was sold
at auction for four thousand Euros in 2007.
  Gaston was considered by many artists of 
his time to be an outsider artist, however
he viewed himself as a rustic modern artist.
  Chaissac was neither untrained in the arts,
nor uninfluenced by the arts, and often
referred to himself as Picasso in clogs. Learn 
more about Chaissac on, here.

Outsider artists might use traditional media in conventional or unconventional ways.  Or they may use unconventional media.
Wax crayon on cardboard, Leroy Person
  A well-known outsider artist, Leroy Person
often combined images of tools and plants
into the same piece. 
Image source,, found here.

Another work by Leroy Person.  
Part of why Person's work was considered
successful, is his intuitive use of rhythm,
balance, light, and shadow.

The work shown above incorporates 
a child's drawing, and wood from an 
old packing crate.  The reverse side of 
the piece is carved and painted red with
some blue and yellow. Notice that the 
artist allowed some of the original writing
from the crate to show through, and that he 
carved plant and tool motifs into the wood 
before painting. Multi-media, Leroy Person.  
Learn more about Leroy Person, here, at 
Images source:  George Jacobs' self taught art website, here.

The determination of who was or is an outsider artist is subjective, of course, and there is crossover between what is considered outsider art and primitive art and folk art and modern art and art brut and naive art and self-taught art.  An entertaining article on the subtle differences of these related art forms can be found at, here.
Mother and Child, mixed-media, by self-proclaimed 
outsider artist Benton Lutz.  Although his work is 
good, and this piece  is undeniably beautiful, the 
fact that Lutz is aware enough of the outsider artist
genre, to classify himself and market himself as such,
makes one wonder if perhaps another categorization
might suit him better.... This piece can be purchased 
on the artist's website, here.

An all-time favorite outsider artist is James Hampton, a janitor, who worked diligently for fourteen years creating his sculptures.  He worked quietly, and few people were aware of his obsession until after his death.  He left journals and papers indicating that Moses had appeared to him, and he was building his assemblage of liturgical objects as a monument to Jesus in preparation for his ministry as St. James. 
The Throne of the Third Heaven of the 
Nation's General Assembly, mixed-media
sculpture, James Hampton. See this image
and read a very good essay about the artist
written by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, here
Image, Smithsonian Institute, via here.

Shown below is an image from one of Hampton's journals.  He often wrote in a special code of his own creation.

Hampton is shown here in the garage he rented in which to build his sculptures. 

Hampton's sculptures were created using kitchen foil, cardboard, foil labels from beer bottles, carpet tubes, and other found materials.

Jimmie Lee Sudduth is considered by many to have been an outsider artist.  As a child, he felt compelled to create art, and even experimented with creating his own pigments from clay and plants. He learned to paint using his fingers, and continued to use them as an adult, claiming his fingers never wore out.
Cotton Gin, sweet mud paint on board, Jimmie Lee Sudduth 
Vintage City Scape, sweet mud paint on board, Jimmie Lee Sudduth

No discussion of outsider art would be complete without mentioning Donald "Cano" Espinoza, of Antonia, Colorado. 

Cano's life work is represented in the home he has created using beer cans, hubcaps, and other found materials.

Cano credits his inspiration to vitamin "M" and Jesus.  

A Native American Vietnam vet, his castle is a monument of thanksgiving to Jesus for keeping him safe and bringing him home.  He uses repurposed materials, creatively adapting items for new uses.
Although, the bathtub virgins are not unique to outsider art, they are definitely a great example of adaptive reuse.   

As you can see here, Espinoza is not shy about sharing his world view!

This post is being linked to Alphabe-Thursday, at Jenny Matlock's blog.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

N is for Not Such a Big House?

Most of you are probably aware of the writings of Sarah Susanka.  Sarah is an architect and author who helped to spearhead the small house movement.  She has written many books on small house design.  Her book, The Not So Big House, brought new attention to the concept of living in a smaller space.

Susanka followed The Not So Big House with several other books on the topic.

She even branched out into a more philosophical approach to living small -- making room for the really important things.

Susanka's works were part of a larger reaction to the McMansions of the nineties.
photo image courtesy Time CNN article, found here

These 3000 to 6000 square foot behemoths began cropping up all over the country.  As families got smaller, and began spending less and less time at home, their houses just got bigger.  And so did their mortgages (and their home equity lines of credit got bigger-- all while their equity, like their family size, shrunk -- but that's a story for another day...).

Many McMansions were built using the same formula: 
Palladian window in front + double height foyer + cathedral ceiling in great room + not very efficient kitchen = really big house that's hard to heat, doesn't function as well as it should, and looks just like a thousand other houses.  
photo Aaron Houston, source New York Times

 Reminds me of a profound little folk song, Little Boxes, of Malvina Reynolds (and Weeds) fame.  You can listen to Pete Seeger singing Little Boxes  here. To hear Billy Bob Thornton's version of the Little Boxes intro to Weeds, click hereTo hear Malvina Reynolds' recording, click here.

For the price point, you might have expected McMansions to have really nice finishes, but, alas, they usually had builder grade cabinetry sporting flat cut honey oak veneer and doors.  All of this beauty was usually topped with laminate counter tops.  Light fixtures and hardware were usually factory painted to look like fake brass.  The home exteriors often sported  projecting garages, and fake stone veneer.

Trim--if there was any--was often natural stained fir (at best) that was not in appropriate proportion to the large spaces.  See the wee skinny baseboard and window trim in the picture below?  Hey, a builder's gotta save money wherever he can!
Not surprisingly, people have started to get tired of their cold white and beige boxes, with their big electric bills and lack of character. For years, writers have been suggesting that the sprawling neighborhoods full of today's McMansions...

are tomorrow's slums.....
image Dharavi-Mumbai slum, found here

An interesting article about this topic, published in March 2008, in The Atlantic, can be found here.

Moving into a very-tiny-temporary-until-we-figure-out-where-we-really-want-to-live-or-get-transferred-again-apartment, has caused my husband and I to sit back and really think about what we need.  We looked at a floating home earlier this week that would have seemed ridiculously small a year ago.  Now, however, we wonder if we won't rattle around in something that big (it has TWO bedrooms)!  And we were really wowed by the four foot by twenty foot deck!

After Huricane Katrina, people were so grateful to have a tiny "Katrina Cottage".  There's just nothing like a life altering event to put things into perspective!  These sweet little cottages contained all the essentials, as well as cozy little front porches.  They were modeled after traditional shot-gun cottages from another era.  Learn more about Katrina Cottages here.

Are you interested in purchasing a historic shotgun cottage?  Five grand will get you one of these Indianapolis ladies.  For more information on this preservation program, go to the Historic Properties Foundation website, here.

The historic home shown below is only seven feet wide!

Here is the same home today....

This Alexandria, Virginia home was built in 1830.  The current owners use it as their "city house", but the previous owners lived in the home full-time for twenty-five years!

What makes this house work is the same thing that makes the little Katrina cottages work -- thoughtful design, and a-little-slice-of-outdoor-space-all-your-own.  For more information on this house, dubbed The Spite House, see this New York Times article.

This little stone cottage is in Iceland. The man who built it raised his twenty-two children here.
image source: Iceland Eyes blog 
click the link to learn more about the family that once lived in this home

Here is a picture of the interior.
image source: Iceland Eyes blog

I can imagine that the family who lived here felt very grateful to live in a space that was easily heated during the long, cold winters.  Of course, at the time the home was built, none of the surrounding buildings existed, so the family had plenty of outdoor space.  I'm not saying that I want to move into a postage stamp-size house and raise two dozen children -- I'm just trying to look at things from a different point of view....  

This is not the floating home we looked at this week, but I thought I'd share it because it is so doggone cute.

So, tell me what you think?  Did houses get too big for most American families in the nineties?  I think most of the houses in this article are just a wee bit small to live in permanently, and that the right-size house is somewhere in the middle. What do you think?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Committee is In on This Matter

Are you familiar with these lamps?  Created by a couple of anti-designers from London based Committee, these lamps are an artistic take on lamp making.  The creators use re-claimed cast off items to make their lamps.  Although the lamps may look a little unplanned and random, the artists carefully chose each item they used to tell a part of a story.

As with any quirky accessory, we may not want 
to fill our houses with these, but a few fun pieces might
keep us from taking ourselves too seriously.

I can definitely see these in a studio, a city loft, or a vacation home. 

According to the Committee website, these pieces are "built as totems of improbably varied materials, (and)
are painstakingly composed to contain stories and meanings amongst the eclectic objects they include and consequently each lamp is a unique sculpture, filled with pieces from different eras that allude to the constant turning of fashion and style and the flow of objects into and out of our lives". 

Tell me what you think.  Would you use a piece like this in your home?  

To visit the Committee website, click here.  These "Kebab" lamps are available exclusively through Established and Sons, here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

M is for Mosaics and Moving

Sorry, Mrs. Matlock, I always seem to be late to class!  I had a really Magnificent project planned, too!  It was going to be about Mosaics.  Like this.....

Or maybe this.....

But alas, although I was very Motivated by Mosaics, I was Majorly this.
And after three days of Major stress, a Move was interjected.  But not into one of these Marvelous Mansions.

No, we Moved our goods out of corporate storage and into private storage -- well, actually Public Storage.

We filled two of these...
 ... and brought mountains of stuff that didn't fit into the storage units back to our very-tiny-temporary-until-we-find-a-house-or-get-transferred-again apartment.

And then I started working on that Majorly stressful project. Again.
And finally Marched down the street, envelope in hand, and extension.  Then I meandered my way home, by way of some nice Markets.

When my Main Man got home, we decided to watch several old episodes of this.
...which has nothing to do with the letter M.  But my brain was Mush.  And my Muscles ached.  So I never did my Mosaic assignment....

So, Mrs. Matlock, I did not do the correct assignment.  I won't insult you by saying the dog ate it.  He would have eaten it. If I had done it.  And rubbed it all over with bacon. But, that's not what happened.

If you want to see some really cool M posts, by much better students than me, click here to go to Mrs. Matlock's class.