Some of the most amazing Los Angeles Area examples of installation work made from found and recycled materials lay in folk art. Characteristically, folk art is not influenced by movements in fine art circles, and, in many cases, folk art does not include anyone that is a professional. It is generally considered ‘naive art’ due to the pretenses being nothing but using functional materials for a creation that is not purely aesthetic. Often times, folk art and, more specifically, these three examples, do not follow the same rules of perspective and proportion as ‘high art’ or ‘fine art’. Often you find folk artists being older in age, doing something to help the time pass.
My interest in folk art installations resides in a couple places. 1-The artists have dedicated the last years of their lives to creating something purely out of passion. 2- they are doing it for NOBODY BUT THEMSELVES. and 3. Some people may call it hoarding, others just like to rummage, either way, these artists did not spend thousands and thousands of dollars creating a masterpiece for ‘such and such’ museum. They spent little to no money to create a masterpiece that is stationary, inspiring and free. All we can hope for is that these places are preserved, protected and the public sees the value in allowing them to remain.
1. Watts Towers- Created by Simon Rodia, the Watts Towers is a collection of 17 interconnected structures, two of which reach heights of over 99 feet. Rodia created these structures in his spare time over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954, decorated with found objects such as porcelain, glass, bed frames, bottles, tiles, rocks, scrap metals and sea shells. Miranda Joe Buttons and I visited the Watts Towers back in 2006, unfortunately they are fenced off so you can’t get up close and personal with these structures, but you can definitely get a clear understanding of scale and intricacy. I would check it out during the day, and hope that the rainbow painted staircase overpass is still there. Definitely an unexpected decoration for the city of Watts! http://www.wattstowers.us
2 Grandma Prisby’s Bottle Village- In 1956, Grandma Prisby started building a “village” of shrines, walkways, sculptures, and buildings from recycled items and discards from the local landfill. This place is absolutely phenomenal. A few month’s ago, Jennifer Korsen and myself took a trip to the bottle village. We were blown away by the years and years of collecting and building Grandma dedicated herself to: gorgeous stained glass walls created by used bottles, intricate walkway mosaics made from anything from toys, to license plates, to hair combs, guns, to antique dolls, shrines made of doll parts and planters made from old TVs. This place was a folk art inspiration- and makes you think twice about hoarding being looked down upon. http://www.vanace.com/BV/index.htm
3. Salvation Mountain- Salvation Mountain is an art installation created by longtime resident Leonard Knight, covering a hill north of Niland, Ca, near Slab City and just several miles from the Salton Sea. It is made from adobe, straw, thousands of gallons of paint and found and donated objects. The reason for building such a beautiful beast was not simply for the sake of art, but to display ‘his gift to the world,’ the message ‘god is love.’ I have been to The Mountain more times than I can count at this point, and regardless of what you feel about Leonard’s message, there is no denying that The Mountain is magical. The panoramic view is stunning, and when you begin to walk around the grounds you notice there are tons of tiny tunnels detailed with gifts Leonard has received, objects that he has found and refurbished, trash that he has transformed to beauty and function- and the kittens that live in The Mountain make for a very cute accessory. http://www.salvationmountain.us
I urge you to check out these places. Grandma Prisby’s house is closed to the public, but they have seasonal open houses. I believe the next one is April 6th. The other two folk art monsters are on public property, open anytime and extremely accessible with a full tank of gas. These are some of my favorite places in the world and part of my inspiration for wanting to throw a show highlighting found materials.
For more info regarding REFUSE TO DESTROY, a group exhibit featuring art made from found materials visit www.1111acc.org or www.facebook.com/1111acc
Co-Founder/ Artistic Director