August 26, 2016

Nicholas Golovan, Single handedly built and decorated house

front side of the house, facing the river 

Single-handedly constructed and decorated with sculptures by its owner since around 1980, above pictured house in Lutsk, Ukraine, is a very special art environment/singular architecture. 

Life and works

Nicholas Golovan, the builder of the house and creator of the sculptures, was born in 1943 in Teremne, Ukraine.  His parents -a carpenter and a seamstress- in 1946 moved to Lutsk, a city in northwest Ukraine, where Golovan currently still lives. 

At a young age Golovan already showed artistic qualities and his parents stimulated him to go to an art academy. His mother hasn't experienced it, because she died in 1958, but indeed, young Golovan in 1960 was admitted to the art academy in Lviv. 

He studied there untill 1965 and then returned to Lutsk, where he built a studio in the yard of his father's house. He married in 1971 and in the same year he had his first exposition.

Golovan became active as a sculptor especially in the Volyn region where Lutsk is located, creating sculptures and monuments, usually intended for the public space.

When he was looking for a place to build a house that would serve as family home and studio, in the late 1970's the authorities allocated him a piece of land in a part of the old town bordering the river Styr. 

Golovan got constructional and architectural assistance from the architect Rostislav G. Metelnytskyy, but he did the construction works himself, brick by brick. 

This resulted in a rather special architecture: a three-story house with balconies and balustrades, a large round staircase to the entrance and a large walled garden in front and on the backside.

the side of the house along Luteranska street (2015) 
with a group of sculptures at the bottom of the wall and staircase to entrance 

Golovan decorated the house with a variety of sculptures, arranging a series on the balustrade on the upper front side and another one on the bottom of the wall along Luteranska street, but then there are also hundreds of both small and large sculptures scattered over the property. The yards around the house contain large quantities of boulders awaiting to be processed, as well as other materials.

The interior of the house has also been abundantly decorated with sculptures and high reliefs.

a scene of the interior

The pictures in this post just give a limited idea of the multitude of decorative sculptures in various styles included in, on and around this house. However, the internet has a number of websites with series of pictures of this house and Youtube has various videos (see documentation).

In terms of constructing Golovan is a non-professional, but his sculptures show he has mastered sculpting completely. In any case an entry of this site in this weblog, an inventory of european (outsider) art environments, is quite rightly, just as a local tourist guide ranks the site amongst the town's major worth seeing buildings, such as its castle, tower and churches.

The inhabitants of Lutsk in general respect Golovan and his art environment. The city in 2016 has decided to  appoint him as honorary citizen of the city. The award ceremony took place on August 20, 2016. 


* Youtube has a lot more videos about Golovan, look here

Nicholas Golovan
Golovan's House
Luteranska Street 9
Lutsk, Volyn region, Ukraine
can be seen from the street

August 13, 2016

Stanislav Sartsevich, Sculpture garden

black and white pictures courtesy of Volodmyr Marchuk 
(Volart Art Gallery, Lutsk)

The sculpture garden in above picture was extant in the 1970's and 80's in Lutsk, a city with a history of over 900 years, located in northwestern Ukraine, along the river Styr. 

Life and works

About Stanislav Sartsevich (1904-1987), who created this sculpture garden, only just a few biographical details are available. He had a job as a teacher, was head of a post office and the longest time he was an accountant at the department of social security.

Maybe during his working life he already made folk art paintings, in any case once retired, probably around the late 1960's, he became active as a self-taught artist, mainly by passionately creating sculptures and to a lesser extent also by making paintings.

Sartsevich posing in front of the site (1980's)

Sartsevich displayed his extensive production of sculptures in the front garden of his house which was located along a street in the old part of the town near Lubart's Castle, one of the oldest medieval fortifications in Europe.

His neighbours resented this use of the garden because in their view the grounds should be used to grow vegetables. They approached the local authorities who tried to restrain Sartsevich, but he diligently continued the development of his sculpture garden.

It became an extensive site with a variety of closely spaced sculptures made from cement and painted in appropriate colors. Ultimately the collection comprised mostly sculptures of people and animals.

His life-sized sculptures of people are rather naturalistic and those depictng well dressed fashionable ladies wearing a hat, especially got some reputation.

this picture in color: screenshot of some ladies 
from the 10'38" video (see documentation)

But he also made a large number of sculptures of people from Lutsk, family members, friends, swimmers, partisans, military people, a winged angel ....

The pictures in this post just give a limited insight in the large number of personalities that populated the garden.

In general he modeled his sculptures without using an image of his subject, although when creating a madonna he used an image of the madonna in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Sartsevich's sculptures of animals depict lions, deer, giraffes, elephants, all kinds of birds, in short the animals one sees in a zoo, all mostly executed in a realistic way.

Appreciaton and indifference

Sartsevich has received appreciation for his creative activiteites. For example: in 1979 he was invited to take part in an exposition of folk art in Lutsk. 

He also got positive nationwide publicity when in 1982 art historian Oleksandr Naiden wrote a benevolent article about him, entitled Portrait of the artist at old age, in the Russian magazine Decorative art of the USSR nr 5.

However, after Sartsevic in 1987 had passed away, both the family and leading artistic circles in Lutsk did not attempt to maintain the garden. His art environment was demolished, as well as the house, which was replaced by a modern two-storey building

All that remains are the old photos and videos.

* Website of Volodmyr Marchuk's Art Galery in Luts'k
* The video (13'53") entitled Борис Амаров в Луцьку (Boris Amarov in Lutsk) shot in1980, uploaded to Youtube dec. 2012 has scenes of the sculpture garden, Sartsevich and visitors from 3'37"-8'55"

* The next video (10'38", Youtube, uploaded march 2014) has a compilation of some old videos of the sculpture garden and a slideshow of the various sculptures

Stanislav Sartsevich
Sculpture garden
(formerly) Plytnytsy Street 1
Luts'k, Volny Oblast, Ukraine
house and garden have been demolished
and replaced by a modern building

July 30, 2016

Jan Janssen, Zjwaamvallei/Valley of the river Swalm

Swalmen is a small community of some 9000 inhabitants in the province of Limburg, the Netherlands. It takes its name from the small river Swalm, which meanders from Germany to the river Meuse in Limburg. The community from old has its own dialect called Zjwaams (Swalms).

Zjwaamvallei is the name of an art environment in Swalmen, consisting of a large number of miniature structures.

Life and works

The creator of this art environment, Jan Janssen, was born in 1934 as son of a farmer living not far from Swalmen. After primary school he worked for sixteen years at an iron foundry and then became a construction worker.

When he married, the couple went to live on the western outskirts of Swalmen, then a wooded, verdant area, currently a part of the community adjacent to the newly constructed A73 motorway.

In 1967 Janssen began making miniature constructions he located in the rather large garden around his house, an activity he continued throughout his life.

Initially he made constructions of chipboard, but later he built with very small bricks he formed himself from clay and baked in a stone oven. The first video in the documentation shows his workshop with a stock of these small bricks.

In creating the structures, Janssen also used a variety of discarded objects, such as parts of carpet (applied as roofing), hubcaps, flower pots, rings of curtain rails, but also material collected in the area, such as cobblestones from the river Meuse.

The miniature buildings, which vary in height between 0,5 and 3,5 meters (1.6 - 11.4 ft), are not replicas of existing buildings but products of Janssen's fantasy. They exhibit different architectural styles, some have a modern look, but most structures exhibit a Limburgian or German architectural influence.

Placed together without a particular template, the over fifty miniature buildings include castles, mills, gates, bridges, stairs, and so on.

Janssen, currently (2016) in his early eighties, no longer makes new creations. His son assists him in maintaining the site. 

* Eric Denig, Fantastisch Erfgoed (Fantastic Heritage), Stichting de DonderbergGroep (Dutch foundation about follies), 2005, pp 52-53
* A recent series of pictures (2016) by Jan Dijstelbloem on Google+

* Video by Wim Heinen (19'20", Youtube, uploaded november 2015)

Jan Janssen
Swalmen, Limburg, Netherlands
can partly be seen from the street

July 24, 2016

Alexander Markelovich Ladogina, церковь/church

Above pictured singular architecture is located in Mulyanka, a small community near the city of Perm in the Russian Federation.

Life and works

Alexander Marelovich Ladogina (b 1951) in 2001 at age 50 began the construction of a building that might serve as a church for the community. He was a functionary at the Russian department of agriculture and it is unlikely that he had a professional architectural background.

The construction, which resembles a large barn, stands out as an art environment because of the specific decorations added to its roof. These spherical aluminum domes are composed of kind of lampshades wich were used in agriculture in order to protect seedlings and promote their growth.

These domes are easy to associate with the onion-shaped domes featuring Russian Orthodox churches and cathedrals, and the crosses on top of the domes mark the religious character of the building.

 picture from Berlogos website 

The church is located in a marshy area and although it was consecrated by a local priest and may have been used as a church indeed, currently it is more like a storage. As far as I understand nowadays a new church, built on a more elevated location, is available.

Ladogina is meanwhile in his sixties and retired.

In 2013 he was interviewed by telephone by the journalist Ivan Kozlov, who published his report on the russian website Snob. And recently (may 2016) this art environment got some publicity in an article by art historian Alexandra Kushnarev on the russian website Berlogos, which reports on worldwide developments in modern architecture and design.

Ivan Kozlov, "Алюминиевый храм на краю болота" (Aluminum temple on the edge of the swamp), on: website Snob, november 14 2013

Alexander Markelovich Ladogina
Self-built church
Mulyanka, Perm Krai, Russian Federation
extant, but specific location unknown

July 13, 2016

Bogdan Ziętek, Interior with sculptures

this picture and the next two 
courtesy of  Andrzej Kwasiborski

Most self-taught artists who create an art environment made up of life-sized sculptures, will put these creations in their garden. But not so the artist presented in this post, whose creations stay indoors and appear to be part of the household.

Life and works 

Bogdan Ziętek (b. 1932) was born in Tlukienka, a small village in the south of Poland, near Krakow. After World War II the family moved to the more westerly area of Lower Silezia. They settled in the community of Brzeźnica, where Ziętek currently still lives.

As a young boy Ziętek only attended primary school. His parents couldn't afford further study and he had various jobs such as decorator and illustrator. The longest, some sixteen years, he worked at a mining company in Grochowski. He retired in 1991 at age 59.

A man of various artistic talents, Ziętek was not only a self-taught sculptor, he also liked making music, writing poetic, mystic and philosophic texts, working as a photographer on weddings and other festivities and designing and sewing women's clothing.....

Already as a young man his artistic disposition went along with a sensitivity to beauty, which in his case involved in particular the appeal of beautiful women.

He made his first sculpture in 1960, a depiction of a woman he named Eva. It took him several months to complete the creation. In the ensuing years Ziętek would make many more sculptures, mainly of women.

Ziętek has a specific emotional relationship with his wooden women, which he serves well in terms of clothing, make up and hairstyle. In an interview (2005) he said: Piękne kobiety są jak rwący potok - zaszumią, rozkochują i odchodzą (Beautiful women are like a rushing stream - they rustle, surprise and go).

Partly due to the positive interest from museums and the press, his wife Agnes became accustomed to her husband's passion and accepts it. The wooden ladies are kind of members of the family and part of the household indeed.

Currently (2016) Ziętek has sculpted some fourteen large sized women (around 1.80 m, 5.9 ft high) and over 170 smaller ones (30-40 cm, 0.98-1.3 ft high). Only a few of his sculptures depict a man.

The sculptures are made of wood, usually a suitable part of a lime tree, which he roughly shapes with a chainsaw, details with chisel and knife, processes by prolonged sanding and finishes by painting it in natural, realistic colors. The sculpted women are dressed with self-designed and self-made garments.

Besides sculptures Ziętek also makes paintings and drawings


Ziętek's work has been featured in various solo and group exhibitions in Poland, such as the the Mazovian Museum in Plock and the Ethnographic Museum in Wroclaw (summer 2015)

Recently (january, february 2016) a selection of his creations was exposed in the Pomeranian Gallery of Folk and Amateur Art KPCK in Bydgoszcz. A short video (see documentation) gives an impression of this presentation.

* Article Wiejski Harem by Katarzyna Hermanwicz in Wedrowiec (spring 2005)
* Video Rozmowy z Bogdanem Ziętkiem made in 2009 by the Mazoviab Museum in Plock (9'41", Youtube, uploaded march 2012)

* Documentary video by Bartosz Blaschke Ziętek (Poland, 2008, subtitled in english, 16'32", Youtube, uploaded oct 2015)

* Video made of the opening of the exposition in the Gallery of Folk and Amateur Art KPCK in Bydgoszcz (2'47", Youtube, uploaded january 2016)

Bogdan Ziętek
Interior with sculptures
Brzeźnica, Poland
visits only on appointment

June 22, 2016

Jean Cathelain, Le jardin du mineur/The miner's garden

 view from the street of
the garden in front of the house (2008)

In december 2015 this weblog announced the publication of a book about art environments in the former mining area in the north of France: d'Étonnants jardins en Nord-Pas de Calais. Lyon (Ed. Lieux-dits), 2015.  The following post is about one of the sites presented in this book.

Life and works

Jean Cathelain (1932-2011) spent his early years in the Meuse area in north-east France but  came to live with his parents in the community of Billy-Montigny at age 11. He began his work at the mines as an underground miner, later he became a dispatcher, entrusted with regulating the underground coal transport. He had to stop working because of silicose in 1974 at age 42.

Fond of tinkering in his spare time, in the early 1970's he began to decorate the front garden of the house he rented from the mining company since 1959.  To house the workers mining companies in northern France owned many blocks of houses, formed by rows of uniform dwellings usually with a garden, in front, at the backside, or both. 

Cathelain's art environment is relatively simple in design. It's main elements include a couple sitting on a bench under a tree with a nest of storks, a miner and a windmill. These elements are complemented by a variety of other, mainly smaller items, of which some were bought or received as gifts.

detail: the miner (2008)

The sculptures of people and of various animals have been made of a mixture of newspaper clippings, cement and water. After hardening they would be painted in appropriate colors.

Above miner expresses Cathelain's love of the coal mining profession. The miner, 1.64 m high,  is equiped with his usual attributes: helmet, pickaxe and cased torch, items that occasionally were stolen.....

Near the house's outside wall a neatly dressed couple sits on a bench. The sculptures measure around 1.60 m. Although the male figure has some similarity with Cathelain, this sculpture is not a portrayal of mrs and mr Cathelain, but rather a representation of Cathelain's love for his wife.

detail: the mill (2008)

On par with the miner stands a single-handedly constructed mill, which has a platform with two persons on the outlook. Besides the mill is a small rectangular pool with a bridge and a gnome. Once fishes swam in this pool, but later these were replaced by toy ducks.

Compared with other art environments with a much more exuberant lay out, Cathelain's garden indeed has a simple design. However the obvious affection Cathelain shows in creating his sculptures gives the site an engaging look.

A replica of a mine gallery

In addition to the sculptures and decorations in his yard, Cathelain has also made a model of a mine gallery, which represents a timbering site of a coal mine as it was before 1950. This maquette, of which no pictures are available, was donated to the Musée de la Mine in Oignies, where it currently is exposed.

Actual situation of Cathelain's art environment

The review of Cathelain's art environment in the book d'Étonnants jardins en Nord-Pas de Calais is based upon a meeting the author had with Cathelain, shortly before the creator of the site in august 2011 passed away. Editing this post in 2016, I couldn't find information whether ór not the site has continued to exist after its author died.

Le Service du Patrimoine Culturel de la région Nord-Pas de Calais, D'Étonnants Jardins en Nord-Pas de Calais. Inventaire général du patrimoine culturel (Images du Patrimoine, 293). Lyon (Ed. Lieux-Dits), 2015, pp 74-77

Jean Cathelain
Le jardin du mineur
39 rue de Chateauroux
Billy-Montigny, Nord-Pas de Calais, France
actual situation unknown

June 15, 2016

Jeanne Devidal, La maison de la folle/The house of the silly lady

this picture and the next one © Louis Motrot, 1988.

Above singular architecture, a structure surrounded with enigmas which existed untill 1991 in Saint-Lunaire, Britanny, France, was photographed in 1988 by Louis Motrot, a historian living in neighbouring Saint-Malo*.

Life and works

Born in 1908 in the Breton town of Brest as daughter of a couple with five children that run a pub and traded in wine, Jeanne Devidal in 1926 moved to Paris where she went to work with the french national postal and telephone company.

In 1941, during world war II, she was reassigned to Boucé, a community some 200 km west of Paris in territory occupied by the Germans. She lived there with her older sister Leonie Devidal. It might be that she was part of a network of resistance fighters and that she intercepted messages. Just before the liberation of France most members of the cell were arrested and executed (the massacre of Riaux).

It is rather certain that both have acquired here war trauma, but Jeanne Devidal would never talk about this period in her life.

In 1947 together with her mother and sister (her father and two brothers had died) Jeanne settled in the community of Saint-Lunaire, where they opened a shop in haberdashery named Chez Jeannette.

She acquired a piece of land near the part of the beach known as Longchamp where she had a house built in the pavillion style as usual along this coast.

In 1953, from mid april untill mid november, Jeanne's sister Léonie was included in the psychiatric hospital in Rennes. She would never return to Saint-Lunaire. Then Jeanne's mother died, whereupon Jeanne herself in 1956 from mid january untill end april was hospitalized in the same psychiatric hospital.

this picture © Pierre Quero, 1990.

Jeanne Devidal now would live alone in the house in Saint-Lunaire..

It is unknown why, but in 1957 she began to transform the house into an art environment. It has been reported that she made decorations in a rather artistic way, creating bas reliefs with inlaid shells, making paintings and sculptures. However, to my knowledge, no pictures of the house's interior are available on the internet.

Apart from making decorations, Jeanne Devidal also began enlarging the house by adding new walls and annexes, whereby she not only used cement, but also a variety of unusual materials, such as shoes, crates, driftwood from the beach and boxes of sardines, producing a tangle of constructive elements, fenced windows, overhangs and motives, combined with miscellaneous stones, wooden elements, found objects and vegetation. The interior is a maze of galleries and rooms.

Inhabitants of Saint-Lunaire nicknamed Jeanne Devidal la folle de Saint-Lunaire (the silly lady of Saint-.Lunaire), but Agathe Oléron, who made a documentary film about her (first presented spring 2016) assesses this as unjustified: ".....(she) was an artist. She did not just build a strange house. She painted, drew, sculpted and wrote on the walls. She lived in her art".

 © Pierre Quero, 1990
(Pierre Quero, engineer and expert for the Court of Appeal 
in Rennes in 1990 reported the municipality 
of Saint-Lunaire about the status of the house)

Jeanne Devidal has been active in constructing and decorating exterior and interior of this singular architecture for some 35 years, often starting at 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning, always covered with a scarf, a hat or a hood.

As an explanation for her activitities it has been suggested that she, haunted by delusions, sought protection behind the walls she built, but Agathe Oléron, who in preparing her film talked with many people who somehow have known Jeanne Devidal, thinks there is no single univocal statement available.

In the 1980's the site was visited by many tourists, often via busses of tour operators and local residents who considered this annoying, did not understand that the local authorities tolerated the unlicensed structure. The story went that Jeanne Devidal enjoyed protection by highranking persons.

drawing 50 x 65 cm, paper, pencil, graphite 
© Agathe Oléron, 2013 (click to enlarge)

In 1987 the building withstood a severe storm, but during Christmas 1990 an observation tower collapsed, whereby Jeanne Devidal was hit. Firefighters found her among the rubble, fortunately only slightly injured. She was hospitalised and thereafter she went to live in a sheltered accomodation in Saint Briac. There she lived for seventeen years untill she passed away in july 2008, almost a hundred years old.

Following a decision of the mayor, supported by a report on the status of the building in terms of security to the public, Jeanne Devidal's singular architecture was demolished in 1991. It was replaced by a conventional coastal pavillion.

Documentary film by Agathe Oléron (2016)

In her first full length documentary film Agathe Oléron seeks to portray Jeanne Devidal and her singular architecture. In an interview she relates her experiences when as a young child she for the first time saw the house. She felt as if Jeanne Devidal had made a giant sand castle to protect herself and that the next wave would swallow up everything:"For me it was impossible to live in such a house, it was scary".

© graphic design Agathe Oléron, 2016   
© picture Pascal Pignol, 1981 

She relates that Jeanne Devidal was highly respected by the adults of the community: "Everyone has appropriated the character and each time it evoked in the people a happy memory, a mystery, something pleasant".

First presented on June 3, 2016 to the inhabitants of Saint-Lunaire, the film will circulate in France.

There is no trailer available to show here.


Article in regional journal Le pays malouin 30-12-2015
* Another article in Le pays malouin, on the occasion of Agathe Oléron's film, 1-6-2016
* Article in regional journal Ouest France 31-12-2015
* Interview (early 2016) with Agathe Oléron who made the documentary film about Jeanne Devidal
* Article (dec 2015) in weblog FreeCasaBabylon

* I want to thank Agathe Oléron for the additional information she sent me

Jeanne Devidal
La maison de la "folle de Saint-Lunaire"
boulevard des Tilleuls
Saint-Lunaire, Britanny, France
no longer extant