Monday, June 15, 2015

Photo Essay: A Fairy Tale World of Sculpture, Tile and Glass

There are some places in this world that are just unbelievable. They must be a figment of someone's imagination, or a dream, or a manifestation. Even to see photographs of them, and read first-hand accounts of visiting them, it's hard to imagine that they're real and not an art project, or an experiment.



I suppose artist James T. Hubbell's complex in Santa Ysabel, California is a bit of both. And that doesn't mean it isn't real.



It's hard to define Hubbell's artwork as anything but "Hubbellesque."



He's not bound by medium – expressing himself through wood carving...



...mosaic tile...



...stained glass...



...and mixed media paintings, all of which are expressed in his mid-century home and studio, the first of the structures in the complex to be built of locally sourced materials.



He's also been a sculptor since he was a teenager.



But this is not a sculpture garden, per se. This is not a museum.



James actually lives here, with his wife Anne.



Here they raised their four sons, including Drew – now principal architect at Hubbell & Hubbell, in partnership with his dad, who provides the artistic vision for their architectural creations.



At the Hubbell home, the art is in the environments, each structure its own sculpture...



...each sculpture a component of the larger compound, and a larger vision.




The complex has been built slowly, over time, over the last 50 years – whenever they had the money, and whenever they were inspired.



Each building has its own character...



...and purpose.



The chapel, built in 2009, provides an even quieter place for contemplation...



...in the already serene mountain retreat.



It's also an example of James' outreach to the community: 13 students constructed the chapel under his direction...



...providing opportunities for artists and non-artists alike to contribute something to this crazy world of his.



The more modern structures like this one tend to exhibit more embellishments, more colors...



...and more reflections.



Some of the earlier structures appear more earthen...



...rising out of the ground in textures of brick and clay and sandstone...



...as mysterious figures from the netherworld also rise up, and look on.



The Hubbell boys eventually got their own bedroom, under a red clay big top...



...with interior and exterior designs so whimsical...



...it's as though they came off the page of a fairy tale.



This structure was spared during the devastating 2003 wildfire that destroyed many of James' art pieces and severely damaged much of the property, which they rebuilt over the course of four years.



The Hubbell home is not open for public visitors because it is a private residence, but it's also very much an active art studio...



...for James himself, and for the various artisans in his collective who help realize the vision of his designs by cutting glass, laying tiles, and erecting new buildings.



It would've been easy to plow this remote property to build whatever they wanted on top of it...



...but instead they've retained as many of the original, natural elements as possible...



...working around trees and boulders and the natural curve of the landscape.



Now that the Hubbells have successfully rebuilt and recovered from the wildfire, they are once again building anew...



...transforming their landmarked home estate into the headquarters for the Ilan-Lael Foundation...



...a non-profit that provides onsite artist opportunities, education, and outreach.



Currently working out of a makeshift office in a converted studio...



...the foundation will soon have its own headquarters within a U-shaped cluster of buildings around a central courtyard, which can also host classes, daytime retreats, yoga, etc.



Until that time, the only way to see this magical wonderland is to attend the Hubbell's annual Open House event, this year on Father's Day June 21. Visitors will have free rein to wander and photograph the property (with the exception of a couple private spaces like bedrooms), and may even meet the Hubbells in person.

You have to see this place to believe it. You can compare it to folk art environments, or a permaculture commune, or even Middle Earth, and in some ways, it is all of those things. But still, it is ultimately Hubbellesque: there's nothing like it anywhere else.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Under a Desert Dome
Photo Essay: The Rite of Zorthian Ranch, By Invitation Only