Singular Spaces: From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments
(Raw Vision, 2013) is an audacious tome. A comprehensive survey of 45 art environments on the Spanish mainland, it weighs just over eight and a half pounds and contains over 1300 color photographs (with over 4000 more plus site plans on the accompanying CD). Its author, Jo Farb Hernandez
, is the Director of SPACES, a non-profit focused on art environments around the world. She first became interested in place-based creative constructions when she was an undergraduate in Wisconsin. In her introduction to Singular Spaces
, she recounts how this particular book began: she and her husband were in the process of renovating an old farmhouse they'd purchased in Catalonia. They took a short road-trip to explore the area around their new home and chanced upon "the enormous roadside construction of Josep Pujiula I Vila, at that time one of the largest and most idiosyncratic art environments found worldwide" (16). Shortly thereafter Farb Hernandez began documenting Pujiula's work while writing another book. In the process she came across more and more such endeavors that demanded her attention. Singular Spaces
is devoted to those sites and like them, the book is the product of years of labor and dedication.
features the work of 45 artists, all men. Alongside the photographs and descriptions of the art environments, Farb Hernandez also tells the stories of their creators' lives, and details the history and development of each project. She also describes the challenges that many of the artists have faced, not least those posed by unhappy neighbors and unsympathetic municipal authorities. In fact, helping the men deal with local adversities has led to Farb Hernandez frequently taking on the role of advocate on behalf of her interlocutors.
A recent review in the Journal of American Folklore
described Singular Spaces
as "incredibly important for those who are interested in architecture, the politics of place and space, folk art and art in general, art and activism, the psychology of creativity, and relationships between tradition and the individual. Jo Farb Hernandez has written more than a survey of eccentric art spaces. She has opened a door to each artist and space so that they may be explored, analyzed, and, in some cases, loved by any who enjoy such contextual art forms."
Rachel Hopkin is a UK born, US based folklorist and radio producer and is currently a PhD candidate at the Ohio State University.