Saturday, July 20, 2019


The unwritten history of art is in the hands of the original artists… the so-called ‘folk artists’

Untrained, making out of a passion for making, often divinely inspired or working within the limits of available

 materials with the currency of time and patience.

The constructions begin at the scale of the toy. A miniature world then evolves into constructions within a house and then takes to the yard as well. A new world is created to dispel the loneliness and isolation of an artist that just does not fit into societal norms.

In the little village of Dicy, France, a cow herder named Pierre Avesard (1902-1992), less formally known as “Petit Pierre”, built an array of mechanical constructions, a mobile set of wood and metal figures built with canned cans and other waste materials. It has a replica of a 30 foot high Eiffel Tower, an atom of giant molecule, flowers and metal plants among other fantastic objects.

Petit Pierre liked to say he was born before he was planned. Without even the hole of the ear, therefore deaf and half blind, he was entrusted with the “trade of the innocent” … a pastor. The invasion of the machines in the life of man left hem perplexed as he spent his days analyzing the movement of the gadgets with which he was fond of. Lonely and fascinated by the speed to which the world changed, he began to build this carousel that still today continues to spin with deafening sounds of gears, pulleys, metal parts screeching and turning to animate his assemblage of kinetic toys. 

The focal point of his creations is a large merry-go-round in the middle of his house and yard of metal
madness. This carnival-esque attraction is fully functioning and carries little metal passengers in the forms of animals, people, buses, trains, and airplanes - all of which circle around wires and tracks at the turn of switch. This entire construct is automated and is controlled by signal boxes that Pierre had built himself.

What is most impressive is the dedication, as well as the lack of formal education that went into creating this project. Being a farmer for most of his life, Pierre spent little time in school and a lot of time working on his metal projects. He began working on this bizarre miniature wonderland in 1937 and did not finish until 1974. 

In 1982 , the menagerie  was saved from destruction by Alain Bourbonnais, artist and collector, his wife and some others , who disassembled , moved and restored the structure in the garden of a place which a year after would become La Fabuloserie. The peculiar museum Bourbonnais opened to display his vast personal collection of Outsider Art is still open in the summer , offering to Petit Pierre’s ménagerie a second life.

Friday, November 9, 2018

THE DIFFICULTY OF THE SIMPLE - The ceramic art of Ron Nagle

The Minuscule, a narrow gate," wrote Gaston Bachelard, "opens up an entire world." 

Miniature works can often come from necessity. It’s well known that artists tend to scale their works to the size of their work space. Although its more out of necessity than personal preferences in some artist’s work and workplaces. A room can often define what comes out of the room.

Painters are sometimes limited in canvas size to how high their studio walls are. Ceramicists scale their works to what will fit into their kiln. Sculptors often think in terms of weight, like what might fall through their studio floor if they make it too heavy. These limitations are sometimes important perimeters that define the work, framing it within the realm where an artist feels comfortable but challenged at the same time to push scale to its fullest expression. Then there are artists who purposely work small.

Ron Nagle is a ceramic artist who makes small works. One could say he’s a potter but that would be a miniature description of what he really does. Originally he worked with the shape of a cup way back in the early 60’s but then started working in the ceramic studio of the grand man of ceramic sculpture, Peter Voulkos, who opened him up to the ‘ceramic revolution’ that unfolded during those years of his apprenticeship. Unlike Voulkos, he stuck with the scale of the cup… the intimately small condensed statement of form, color, simplicity along with an unnamable abstraction.  The small scale works of Kenneth Price also influenced his long developed vocabulary in the simple and pure forms that comes naturally through hand and clay. Ron takes it as his daily challenge to create stunningly beautiful works that connect directly to the intuitive instincts of making. He says “simple is hard”. 

His works float somewhere between the melting clocks of a Salvador Dali-esque melting surrealistic landscape and an enchanted topiary garden of a mad hatter. They have a humor of a standup comedian with an invisible punch line but somehow connecting to a deep interior world. He lives there happily.

He is also an accomplished musician and song writer wandering between melancholic and the beat of a rock band with emotive rich color and dark undertones of humorous but pointed verse. Some know more of his music than his ceramic works yet both blend to make his world a sumptous soup of his own universe.

"A great song and a great piece of art would have in common the ability to evoke some form of emotion in the listener that they havent' quite gotten before. If you've already heard it or already experienced it what's the  point of looking at it or listening to it?"   Ron Nagle  

So goes his ceramic works as well down that road of uncertainty and sung with such a grand voice of the hands.



His Master's Leg       2008

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Knights of Franconia   2008

Lotta Wattage 

New  Blue LaRue

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unknown name

Sorry We're Closed

an exhibition of Ron Nagles works

drawings & ideas

The Bad Clown   

Ron Nagle

To see more of Ron Nagles works go to his website

Thursday, January 5, 2017


They are everywhere. They stick to your shoes while walking in most cities where they are considered a worse blight and eyesore than graffiti. City maintenance crews try fruitlessly to get the candy colored fruit gobs out with solvents, pressurized steam hoses, scrapers and yet, still they cling like lichens to rock. 

However in London, England there is one artist who has made it his job to transform the abandoned chewed out gum wads into something more creative. His distaste for industrial waste, cars and rubbish led him to turn the gum splats into a tiny art form. He creates his tiny works of art by painting the chewing gum stuck to the pavement into miniature paintings. 

Ben Wilson spent years becoming enraged by all the rubbish, cars and industrial waste that had become a large part of urban society. He retreated to the woods, worked in secret but still was faced with running into a littered environment. He began to work with the rubbish he found, collecting cigarette-butts and crisp packets, incorporating them into his collages. Working with on site chewing gun seemed a natural progression to him. 

He started experimenting with chewing-gum paintings back in 1998 but decided to work with them full time in October of 2004. For a number of years he had tried to make a difference to the urban environment by painting on billboards, but this was an illegal activity that often led to trouble with the law. The new medium of chewing-gum miniatures allowed him to paint onto already discarded gum spots anywhere without having to obtain permission and without crossing with the law. It enabled him to make his paintings in a spontaneous manner satisfying a certain freedom to show his works in the streets of London. "Our environment is very controlled and what we need so very strongly is diversity. Even galleries, museums, publishing companies are all very controlled, I want to be able to do my work and to bypass bureaucracy", he says. 

Starting in Barnet High Street in North London, Wilson started his trail of pictures that people could follow from there all the way into the city. Two years later he still spends a majority of his painting time in Barnet where he grew up and in Muswell Hill, where he, his partner, Lily and their three children live. He has become deeply involved in the lives of the area's residents. "I know a lot of the shopkeepers, road sweepers and the local police. As I walk down the street, every few steps I think of a picture I have to do for someone. I have all this in my head, which makes me feel closer to the place and the people." He hopes his work will encourage in others an awareness of their surroundings and give children a sense of connection to where they live - something he believes fewer and fewer people have these days. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Ah... the love of boats. For me it started with a bathtub variety. My dad made it for me. Just a plank of wood with a point at one end and a notch cut at the back end. A small four blade paddle and a rubber band was the 'engine'. A simple little boat but it started a sea adventure powered by my imagination. I made toy and model boats throughout my young life that eventually turned into a full sail powered passion for boats. After the bathtub boats came model boats made from scrap wood, paper sails and broom straw railings. 

Small boats have been around a long time, probably since the beginning of our nautical history. I imagine the first boat came from watching a leaf float magically on water. Scaled up with the use of a woven twig frame and stretched animal skins took us across that impossibly deep river crossing. There were also logs and eventually dug out log boats. It's easy to see a child's fascination with these and being taught how to carve miniatures to play with in the streams and waterways. 

Boats and rivers took on mystical significance in all the prehistory civilizations. In ancient Egypt, large boats on the Nile river ways carried harvested grains, giant stone obelisks, construction stones, pharaohs and their attendant oarsmen, and were used for ferrying across the wide river. The river became a sacred force. The path of the sun was depicted as a disk on a boat, or 'bark' that sailed over the sky from east to west. Small funerary boats were placed in tombs so that the soul could accompany the sun on it's journey after death. 

These were boats of the imagination. Vessels that carried our dreams. To me there is no distinction between the force of the cultural and spiritual imagination of civilizations and the playful power of toy boats in the hands of a child. 


The idea of a toy boat as a vessel of imaginative play has grabbed many artists and inventors spirits. Doing a little research into that idea powered a "Floatables and Flyables" workshop recently constructing toy sailboats and kites with artists and print makers. They took to the concept like ducks to water. It was a playful and colorful storm of activity culminating with launching the vessels into a breezy pond. The sailboats drifted, tilting their paper sails dangerously close to the water. They were helped by long poles off of rocks and away from the spillway. The makers looked on helplessly as they bumped into each other and made their zig zag coarses across the miniature sea. 

Toy boats in the rough seas of the art world have made a few voyages of note. Artist, Jacob Hashimoto created "Armada"...a flotilla of toy sailboats as a kinetic installation at the Studio La Citta Gallery in Verona, Italy in 2011. The boats floated on imaginary waves with the help of ceiling positioned rotating cog shafts and strings to the boat's masts. 

Luigi Prina makes boats... flying boats. He is an Italian architect but also nurtured a passion for toy boat building from a very early age. He was an avid model ship builder for fifty years until one day an artist friend challenged him with a casual statement if you could make one fly, he took up the challenge and to the amazement of his challenger succeeded with a circling light weight boat propelled by a rubber band powered propeller and a wing sail. Fifty years of creating hundreds of these flying boats has made a fantastic flotilla gallery of airships that fly over his head in his home office and studio. 


The paper boat is a traditional origami folded boat that perhaps even you have made at one time in your life. Scottish artist, George Wyllie took it to an extreme making a full size 78' paper boat and floating it in the Glasgow harbor for a remembrance of the Scottish shipbuilding industry event. It eventually sailed onto London, Europe and in the New York harbor.

"It should be obvious that an adventurous voyage is most unlikely in the shallow waters of a bathtub, but the illusion of that possibility persists and is exemplified by art that never sails beyond the gallery"   
George Wyllie... on art galleries

German conceptual artist, Frank Bolter, also staged a paper boat project for an installation sculpture and performance event called Drift 10 on the Thames in London. He took a very large piece of packing material, laying it out on the pavement by the water, asked passers by to help him fold the boat and then launch it into the water... with him, dressed in a suit aboard. The paper performance ends, of course with the boat sinking. The artist explains that the work is to point out the current problems facing a throw away society.

link to Paper Boat "To The Word's End" project video

"A toy boat, a toy boat, a toy boat .....that’s what it is — a toy boat on the Serpentine, ecstasy — it’s ecstasy that matters.” - Virginia Woolf , "Orlando"

From small toy boats to full size white wave breaking racing sloops, boats take us no particular place except away. To waters of imagination, through rough seas and smooth calm doldrums, it is just pure ecstasy that really does matter.