The Palais Ideal is a construction build by a mailman working alone over thirtythree years. Located in Hauterives, France it is now a designated cultural landmark. The mailman Ferdinand Cheval was walking his route in 1879 and stumbled over a stone and that gave him the inspiration for this work of naive architecture. He had no training as a mason or a builder and cemented stones together at night by lamplight to build his artistic dream. The contemporary accounts indicate that he was viewed as the village idiot.
Cheval started carrying small stones in his pockets but eventually pushed a wheelbarrow on his route, selecting stones that he felt would be useful in the building. He originally intended to be buried alongside his wife in a crypt in the building, but was unable to do that under French law and evidently felt that it might interfere with the whimsical character of his creation. So he spent a number of more years creating a smaller but similar structure in a nearby cemetery for that purpose.
The building is covered with depictions of scenes from the Bible and Hindu mythology. Cheval's creation came to the attention of Picasso and other "modern" artists before his death in 1912 and their efforts led to a public fascination with the building and ultimately its preservation.
I have presented this tonight not just because it is cool, but because as artists we are a little like Cheval. Each of us is on his own building a body of work. Our efforts are as singular as his and perhaps as focused. The lesson to be gained here is what a single person, even one of very limited means, can do if they work assiduously toward a clearly defined goal.
I find naive, folk art structures like this and the Watts towers fascinating for their originality and creative daring. He spent all of that time building the thing because he wanted to make something extraordinary and beautiful, he did it for no pay and without any particular recognition. Cheval built this palace because he needed to create, he needed an all consuming project, that's what drives an artist.
NOW GET BACK TO WORK!