Tag: folk art

Here at the Roadside Resort, I generally stick to oddities within the United States. On occasion, though, if something strikes my fancy, I'll ignore the borders and give a creator their due attention.

This time, it's Blair Somerville of Papatowai, New Zealand. For more than a decade, he's filled his Lost Gypsy Gallery with hand-created automata both large and small that are, as filmmaker Joey Bania describes them, "ingenious, interactive, and often hilariously impractical."

Caine Monroy, at only nine years old, is already a budding folk artist and entrepreneur. With his own hands, he's constructed an entire interactive arcade in the front office of his dad's East Los Angeles auto-parts store, made almost entirely of cardboard boxes and packing tape.

Caine's created a basketball-hoop game, a miniature soccer game with green army men as goalies, his own version of a claw machine, as well as others, all made by hand. He's even worked up business cards, multi-play "fun passes," ticket dispensers (which he operates manually by crawling inside the games) and prizes that can be redeemed with said tickets.

Unfortunately, since his father's shop does most of its business online these days, Caine doesn't get a lot of foot traffic to his arcade. So, when filmmaker Nirvan Mullick discovered Caine's amazing creation, he not only decided to make a short film about the boy and his passion, but also organized a flash mob to spring a surprise grand opening. It's a heart-warming story you've got to see.

And if you're in the area, stop by and play! Hours and location are on Caine's website.

The motley collection of junk-metal sculptures known as Jerry Hall's World of Imagination, which has for years fascinated visitors to northwest Tucson, Arizona, has sadly been disbanded.

I had the pleasure of visiting Jerry in 2006 when I was doing research for Weird Arizona, and was even honored to see the inside of his home where he had created an array of glass-bead murals, which were not viewable by the general public.

His bizarre collection of metal creatures, which inhabited every square foot of his front and side yards, was one of the most fun assemblages of so-called "junk" art I've ever encountered. And Jerry himself, a very generous and welcoming individual, was a pleasure to talk with.

Sadly, Jerry Hall succumbed to cancer in 2010, and this past weekend, his family was forced to sell his artwork in an estate sale. Word is the house, too, will be put on the market. ... Continued

Back in June, it looked like Austin's beloved Cathedral of Junk, a towering maze of miscellaneous materials, was going to be torn down after its creator, Vince Hannemann, was unable to work things out with city officials who seemed determined to legislate the landmark into obliteration. However, it looks like the Cathedral has life in it yet!

I spoke with Vince this week and he told me that, after he had decided the seemingly endless effort to bring the Cathedral under building code was no longer worth it, the city of Austin stepped up and worked things out with him.

It looks like the city finally came through and respected the citizens' wishes to "Keep Austin Weird."

On the very last stop on the very last day of my very last research trip for Weird Arizona, I met one of the state's most prolific, and friendliest, folk artists. His name was Jerry Hall, and his "World of Imagination," a collection of unusual, scrap-metal sculptures that took up the entirety of his front yard, had become a regional sensation.

I had been unable to contact Jerry before my arrival, but by sheer luck, he arrived at home moments before I finished taking photos and hit the road back to Texas. As a result, I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours chatting with Jerry, learning about what made him tick, and even getting a personal tour of the wall art inside his house.

Jerry welcomed me like a friend into his home, which is why I was sad to learn that he had recently succumbed to cancer. He passed away on Oct. 19 at the age of 65.

To my regret, my story on Jerry Hall's World of Imagination was cut from the final version of Weird Arizona due to space concerns. But the story, presented with photos of Jerry's creatures, can be read in its entirety here at the Roadside Resort. ... Continued

Update: The Cathedral of Junk lives on!

This has not been a good week for roadside oddities. First, Ohio's Touchdown Jesus was razed by God himself, and now the City of Austin, Texas, has forced the closure and dismantling of the long-standing Cathedral of Junk.

The immense, interactive, multilevel sculpture comprising countless found items — crutches, mailboxes, bicycles, bottles, typewriters, you name it — has stood for 21 years as one of Austin's most loved folk-art sculptures and a definitive example of the attitude that gave rise to the city's motto "Keep Austin Weird."

Unfortunately, city officials threw a wet blanket on the installation back in March when they began ordering changes and demanding permits. Since that time, the Cathedral's creator, Vince Hannemann, along with a small army of volunteers, had been working to bring the sculpture up to code and keep it open. The city had even been fairly cooperative in extending deadlines to make preserving the iconic structure possible. The Austin mayor himself contacted Vince back in May to try to help things along. ... Continued

I've just been informed by a fellow detourist and fan of Weird Texas that the Cathedral of Junk, Austin's towering backyard monument consisting of old bicycles, typewriters, crutches and tons of other metal detritus, has come under fire from the city government!

Despite its being a part of the Austin landscape for the last 20 years, the city, in response to a recent complaint, gave the Cathedral's creator, Vince Hannemann, notice that he must either bring his creation up to local code or they will destroy his property.

I spoke with Hannemann today and he said there were absolutely no issues when he talked to officials as recently as six months ago, but they've now taken a firm stance against his unapproved, permit-lacking structure. It's another sad example of a city failing to recognize its true cultural landmarks. ... Continued

See video

Sure, it may be March already, but why should the spirit of Valentine's Day be over? After all, we eat Thanksgiving turkey well into December, leave our Halloween jack-o-lanterns out till they look like potatoes and leave our Christmas lights up all year round, so why not enjoy V-Day just a little bit longer?

OK, so I'm just making excuses for taking so long to post my Valentine's road-trip video. But, hey, it was tough work compressing so much weekend into just seven minutes and 47 seconds: my valentine Bethany and I spent the holiday exploring such oddities as the Cathedral of Junk, Smut Putt Heaven, Greater Austin Garbage Arts, a memorial to Stevie Ray Vaughan and an abandoned airport control tower.

The end is in sight! I finished out the Personalized Properties chapter today, and I don't think I could've chosen a better attraction to end it with. Gus Brethauer's Somewhere Over the Rainbow has to be among the top five most fascinating sights I encountered in Arizona. Here's a taste of my description:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow has everything under the sun. To its creator and curator, Gus Brethauer, nothing isn't worth saving. He's got rocks of every kind, some on prominent display, some in piles. He's got artifacts salvaged from ill-fated buildings. He has what he claims to be the world's largest collection of petrified wood. There are also dinosaurs, UFOs, tuberculosis shacks and hieroglyphs. And it's all lined up for thorough perusal.

... Continued

I received some sad news today. Louis Lee, creator of the Lee Oriental Rock Garden, one of Arizona's most intriguing attractions, has passed away.

I was very lucky to have met Mr. Lee and his wife Esther on my first research trip to Arizona back in September. The Lees sat with me in the shade of their patio and talked with me about how their extraordinary rock garden came to be. Mr. Lee started it in 1958 with just a retaining wall, after which the elaborate assemblage of arches, partitions, shelves and walkways grew out of control over the course of nearly 50 years.

The Lees were very welcoming upon my arrival and were gracious enough to let me wander around the garden by myself for an hour taking photos. Although I've seen dozens of Arizona oddities since, my visit to the Lee home was one of the most enjoyable. It's strange to think now that the portraits I shot during that visit may well have been the last to be taken of Mr. Lee.

Louis Lee died on Tuesday, the 15th. He was 92 years old. Mr. Lee had lived a long and obviously productive life.