Recycleart Sculpture Garden is located in Waldoboro, Maine. It was created by the late self-taught artist and welder, Nathan Nicholls. Through his art, Nathan encouraged others to think twice before throwing an object away. There is not an object out there that Nathan could not recycle into a beautiful artwork. He welded nails, tires, bike parts, and broken farm equipment into sculptures of owls, flowers, frogs, and cats. Even the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland makes an appearance in his garden.
Nathan was originally from Massachusetts. He moved to Maine after his teenage years. He took on odd jobs, from harvesting blueberries to repairing lawn mowers and motorcycles. The latter job introduced him to the beauty of scraps and discarded objects. Inspired by these objects, Nathan started making sculptures in the 1990s. In 2003, after his mother passed away, he began devoting even more time to his art in order to comfort himself. After many years of creating art, his 5 acres of land is now covered with sculptures.
Nathan passed away in 2014, at the age of 52. His family is working to preserve his artistic legacy. They are in the process of figuring out how to ensure the safety and longevity of his art, especially during the Maine winters. Ideally, it is best to keep an art environment as the artist left it but this leaves the risk of the artwork being destroyed. We hope they come up with a solution that works for them because his sculptures are truly unique and inspiring.
For more information, please visit the Facebook page for the site.
We discovered The Taconic Sculpture Park during a trip to the Hudson River Valley in New York. Driving along the Taconic State Parkway, we suddenly saw a gigantic sculpture head. It was completely unexpected after taking in the quaint green hills, trees, and idyllic barns along our route.
Located in Spencertown, New York, the park was created by Roy Kanwit, a self-taught sculptor and artist. Kanwit has been working on his park for approximately 40 years. The park consists of about 30 sculptures including the aforementioned giant head sculpture (which is 19 feet), statues of gods and goddesses, and other icons.
The artist lives on the premises and does not mind people coming by to enjoy his artwork, as long as they are respectful. We recommend that you call ahead to check the park’s hours. For the contact information and more details, please visit the park’s website.
The Watts Towers, located in California, were designed and constructed by Simon Rodia. The towers consist of seventeen sculptures, including three towers, with the tallest standing at nearly 100 feet. Other noteworthy sculptures include a gazebo and a ship. The most impressive thing about the towers is that Rodia built them entirely by himself from 1921 to 1954.
The towers were constructed using steel rebar armatures, mortar, and wire mesh. No scaffolding or machinery was used to build the towers, although Rodia occasionally used a window washer’s belt and buckle. He decorated the structures in mosaics of broken pottery, glass, shells, and other discarded objects.
Rodia was born as Sabato Rodia in 1879 in Ribottoli, Italy. It is possible that he visited the nearby village of Nola to attend the annual Gigli Festival where he would have encountered the Giglio structures (pictured below). These structures may have served as direct inspiration for his creation later on.
Rodia came to America in the mid-1890s. In 1921, after a couple of unsuccessful relationships and various jobs, Rodia decided to start his artistic journey at 1761-1765 107th Street in the Watts community of Los Angeles. He worked as a construction worker during the day and dedicated all of his spare time to making his art. He decided to create “something big,” and he did exactly that.
In 1955, at the age of 75, Rodia decided to leave his grand project behind to go live in Martinez, California with family. He handed the keys over to a neighbor. In 1959, the Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts was formed to help preserve the site. After critics of the towers had questioned the safety of the structures, the site went through extensive safety testing and passed. This is a great accomplishment considering that Rodia was mainly self-taught. In 1990, the towers were listed as a National Historic Landmark, and presently the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department manages the park. Visitors can view Rodia’s amazing towers by attending a guided tour. Until then, here is a YouTube video (filmed by PC3DM) of a quadcopter flying over the Watts Towers.
The Gingerbread Castle, originally a fairy tale themed amusement park, is located in Hamburg, New Jersey. The castle was designed in 1928 by the Austrian architect and set designer, Joseph Urban, and commissioned by F.H. Bennett. Bennett purchased the property in 1921 to expand the operations of his company, F.H Biscuits (a dog biscuit manufacturer). Read more…
Ferdinand Cheval, the creator of Palais Idéal, was born in 1836 in Charmes-sur-l’herbasse, a village near Hauterives, France. He worked as a rural postman for most of his life.
In 1879, at the age of 43, Cheval stumbled over a rock during one of his mail delivery runs. Inspired by the rock’s unusual shape, Cheval began his dream of creating a palace. He worked on Palais Idéal for 33 years, and it took approximately 3,500 bags of lime to construct the palace. Read more…
Stephen Wright is an artist and designer from East Dulwich, an area of south London, England. About 31 years ago, he began transforming his house and garden into the House of Dreams Museum. He was inspired to create the museum after viewing Jarvis Cocker’s documentaries on outsider art, called Journeys into the Outside with Jarvis Cocker(which I highly recommend watching). His museum is full of elaborate mosaics and found object sculptures. It also serves as a shrine for his memories and a tribute to his deceased partner and parents. It was bequeathed to the National Trust and is open to the public. The visiting hours are listed on his website.
Jardinde Rosa Mir was created by Jules Senis (1913-1983). Senis was a mason who specialized in tiling. Originally from Spain, Senis headed to France in 1947 to escape from the Spanish Civil War. He and his family made a home in La Croix-Rousse, the 4th arrondissement of Lyon, France.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Senis promised that if he recovered, he would design a beautiful garden in honor of his mother, Rosa Mir Mercader. He kept his vow and began work on the garden in 1957. Senis continued to work on it for another twenty years. The space for the garden was only 400 square meters, but this did not discourage Senis from finding a way to fill it up with plants and flowers. He built parts of the garden upwards by making several tall pillars with connected arches. The structures are intricately embellished with shells and stones.
The garden is now a historical site, and it is taken care of by the City of Lyon. Visitors can view the garden on Saturdays during the summer.
Grandview is a sculpture garden located in Hollandale, Wisconsin.In the 1930s, self-taught artist and dairy farmer, Nick Engelbert, began working on this sculpture garden. His wife, Katherine, added her own personal touch by creating lovely garden beds around each of the sculptures. Engelbert started his creations as wooden and wire mesh armatures, which he then embellished with mosaics of glass, shells, and other found materials. Engelbert’s subject matter ranged from fairy tales to patriotic motifs.
After his wife passed away in 1960, Engelbert sold Grandview and moved to Baltimore to live with his daughter. He left behind a beautiful landscape of forty sculptures. Left on its own, the property began to slowly decay and in some cases, vandalism came into play. Fortunately, the Kohler Foundation bought the property in 1991 and began restoring it. There is now an educational program for Grandview as well.
Here is a link to a video about Grandview created by The Wisconsin Art Environment Consortium.
The Gingerbread Castle, originally a fairy tale themed amusement park, is located in Hamburg, New Jersey. The castle was designed in 1928 by the Austrian architect and set designer, Joseph Urban, and commissioned by F.H. Bennett. Bennett purchased the property in 1921 to expand the operations of his company, F.H Biscuits (a dog biscuit manufacturer).
Bennett decided to create his fairytale castle after seeing Urban’s set design work at a performance of “Hansel and Gretel” by the Metropolitan Opera. Also, Bennett drew inspiration from memories of reading the Brothers Grimms’ fairytales as a child.
The castle opened in 1930, and it quickly became a popular tourist destination. Unfortunately, by the early 1980s, the castle started to slowly deteriorate. During the past several years, the property has gone through several transformations. At separate points, the property has been used as a haunted house and as a nightclub.
In 2004, Frank Hinger, a New Jersey resident, purchased the property. Hinger started the restoration process with assistance from grants, fundraisers, and supporters of the castle. The property eventually became too expensive for him to fully revitalize, and Hinger decided to sell it. A real estate developer bought the property with intentions to continue the restoration process. So far, not much has been done, and the castle is falling into a state of disrepair. Visitors should note that the property is currently closed and fenced off. The castle can still be seen from the road.
The Uncommon Canvas raises visibilty and promotes artists who are using non-traditional materials, found objects, and other unusual materials to make their art, ranging from small scale artworks to large sculpture parks. We also feature the work of self-taught artists and artists working outside of the mainstream paradigm.