Friday, September 22, 2006

Seymour Rosen 1935-2006

It feels very strange to hear about someone's death from the "Daily Digest Emails" sent from a Yahoo Group. Seymour lived in Los Angeles and the post originated in Chicago, and included a link to a remembrance page for Seymour. Larry Harris (Narrow Larry) is in Houston, Texas. The internet is amazing.

Beginning in the late 50s, Seymour drove around and found places like Watts Towers, Nit-Wit Ridge, Possum Trot, and Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village. Fascinated with their unique creators and amazed at their creations, he felt compelled to photograph the magic of what he saw. Twenty years of photographs finally became a book in 1979. "In Celebration of Ourselves" was the first book which featured Grandma "Tressa" Prisbrey.

Larry's Tribute Page made me smile, I like his style...

"...Many of the words and phrases on that list describe Seymour as well:"evolutionary", "inspired", "irrepressible", "non-conformist", "obsessive", "real", and "visionary" (Yes, I suppose in small print we would have to add the phrases "often crabby" and "antagonistic 'ol fart who would piss ya off at least once during your friendship".)..."

I wrote Larry an email:

Hi Larry,
Just got my "Outsider Art Digest" with a post from Lisa Stone and link to you. I knew Seymour for a long time because of Bottle Village. Bottle Village Blogsite has a sidebar link for a selection of "Books For Your Bottle Village Bookshelf." There's no seller's photo on Amazon for the available copies of "In Celebration of Ourselves", so I scanned in an image of my own well-worn copy. Sat there and looked through the whole book, thinking about Seymour and "the old days" (I can't stand "back in the day"...) Thought about emailing him for permission to use some of the book photos for the blog. Yes, he was a stickler for that. "In Celebration of Ourselves" is still on the floor next to my chair. I did that yesterday.

Had a giggle about the inevitable friction-- we had our fair share of "Sandpaper Moments". No problem for me, I'm a bit cheeky myself.

Just like Sam, Grandma, Art, Sanford, Ross, and so many others, Seymour was way ahead of his time. "Art is serious business, this genre simply cannot be categorized", scoffed the lofty art world. Who is having the last laugh now? Go ahead and celebrate yourselves! All of you were on the inside before outside became inside.

A quote from Seymour's book sums it up:

"What distinguishes the builders of fantasy environments from most people? I had my theories, but they went very quickly.

What these builders seem to have in common is whimsy, independence and tenacity.Most of them like people and they like themselves they share a sense of caring, especially for small things, and are not awed by "professionals" of any sort. Very few worked from overall plans; their creations just grew.

What seems to make these people different is that they took their dreams and made the time to do something about them."

Without realizing, I think Seymour was writing about creating SPACES. It all fits, doesn't it?

Because of Seymour's SPACES, and his treasure of backyard builders, people were drawn inside to other worlds, inside other ways of seeing. Why are they called Outsiders? Beats the hell out of me.

Take Care,

Seymour took thousands of photograhs. His dream for SPACES was Saving and Preserving Cultural Arts and Environments. Tenacity. Perseverance. Passion. Determination. Dedication...


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm so glad I googled ICOO and Seymour one more time, or I wouldn't have found you.

I was Seymour's neighbor for 10 years and now am helping to coordinate a party on his birthday this Feb. 10th (along with a show of some of his photographs at a local gallery).

Would be great if you could attend either or both. Email me at and I'll send you the info.


9:32 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home