|A circular pond with a stone mosaic church on a central island|
Up in the fireplace's wall like chimney built of locally collected lava and obsidian was an abalone shell with a colored light bulb set in to it that would shine magically at night. I for some reason found this mesmerizing. Strange pieces of native geology were carted home and mortared in to a fantastic structure where you could roast marshmellows on cool desert evenings. This is childhood fantasy material.
|My Grandparents Elmer and Edith and the newly finished fireplace|
Building things 10 feet tall out of stone I have learned, requires a certain amount of drive. Masonry is really about arduous toil. You need something powerful to motivate you. Obsessive compulsive disorder is one of the better motivations, and seems to be the drive behind the builders of most of the World's visionary monuments.
|A Mountain built of colorful minerals|
Thats where Petersen's Rock Garden comes in. North of Bend and just south of the town of Redmond is a property that was once a potato farm, purchased by a Danish Immigrant named Rasmus Petersen. The essay I found online at http://www.3dstereo.com/ezine/petersen_rock_gardens.html says that he moved to America at the turn of the century at the age of 17. The relatives on my Mother's side were in the Pendleton area at that time.
|My Mother and Grandmother at McKenzie Pass|
|House of Rock, near Sisters, Oregon|
When you drive down the highway from Redmond to Bend you pass some large rock shops, although are becoming fewer by the year. Huge chunks of obsidian and petrified wood lure people off the road to pick through the boxes of crystals and cut and polished agates and thundereggs (the Oregon State Rock) collected from the region and beyond. Some people in the area gathered up huge collections of fantastic minerals during their lifetime. Rasmus Petersen was one of them. He first started building a rockery around his home in 1935, with raised beds and miniature buildings that may be memories of his native Denmark. But he was just getting started. Over the next 17 years he built 4 acres of gardens that drew thousands of visitors from all around.
|Early stone work by Rasmus Petersen|
|Bridge over a water lily moat|
|Statue of Liberty showcased in a mount of fantastic multi colored minerals|
|My Mother Mary Louise, feeding a peacock|
|God Bless America|
|Obsidian encrusted suspension bridge|
|My cousin's daughter Chayse sees a garter snake in a lily pond|
One of the most unique features inside is a room where black lights illuminate a day glo landscape of phosphorescent stone mosaic objects. This stuff borders on cheesy unless you do it for a living. For me I see a person with vast ambition manifesting the dreams in his head. And for some of the thousands of visitors who came here, like my grandfather, the dream of making something grand at home rubbed off on them, which in his case resulted in a volcanic fireplace that must have required a few tons of material and a great deal of time to construct. Seeing these stone wonders of the imagination introduced me to the world of visionary art.
The stone work that I do has been directly influenced by the way Rasmus Petersen and other visionary artists combined minerals to showcase their unique beauty. Colors and shapes are carefully composed into functional works of geologic art.
|Miniature houses perhaps reminding him of his Danish homeland|
|A collage of multi colored minerals|
|God Bless America|
|One of many bridges|
|One of the old Swan paddle boats|
|Rasmus's Cement Mixer|
|Red Cinder columns|
|A lava mosaic|
|Another miniature house|
|Rasmus Peterson's initials and 1940 date|
|A bridge to an island in the big pond|
|A nice piece of Pahoehoe lava|
I have since made a point of visiting visionary landscapes in my travels around the globe. Some of them are famous, like Watts Towers in Los Angeles, and some are more obscure, like the magical Walker Rock Garden in West Seattle. That property recently sold and its future is unknown.
By far the largest of this type of landscape is Nek Chand's Rock Garden in Chandigarh, the capitol of the Punjab province of India. Here a man has spent most of his adult life building a garden from found objects that now covers 18 acres. Inside are many thousands of sculptures depicting people in every day acts of life, as well as thousands of animals. The garden was begun in illegally and in secrecy on government land, but was saved from demolition on the merits of its monumental creativity after its discovery. It was dubbed 'The Rock Garden', but Nek Chand himself said that "Its a child's dream, and not a garden of cold rocks...it is my poetry with rocks". An article at http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2010/08/panorama-nek-chand-rock-garden-chandigarh-india/ has an interesting circle cam showing a panorama of part of the garden.
There are so many more places created by obsessive compulsive persons and several interesting books have been published documenting them. A favorite is the photo packed 'Fantasy Worlds' published by Tauschen Press, and 'Gardens of Revelation' by John Beardsley, which delves in to the psychology behind visionary environments. Often the people that create these environments don't have a formal history of education in the arts. They are driven by internal desire and a need to express their visions in material form. The medium is often stone and found objects, which can be gathered at minimal expense if one is willing to go through the hard work to gather and place them. I know first hand what is required, a willingness to suffer for one's art. But the rewards can be very rich indeed.
|Mosaic Figures in Nek Chand's Rock Garden|
|Garden entry I built in Southeast Portland in 2003|