Title of Work
Romano Gabriel 1
Date of Work
Super 8 film
Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Film Collection
Stored: JSP.FAST.FILM BOX 1
UND Art Collections Repository
Born in Brooklyn, New York, James Smith Pierce received his PhD in art history from Harvard University. During his career as a professor, Pierce also became an accomplished artist, whose artworks were included in important exhibitions (including a show on land art at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC) and books on contemporary earthworks and site-specific sculpture. Pierce was also a photographer, exhibition curator, and art collector.
About Romano Gabriel:
Romano Gabriel was born in 1887 in Mura, Italy. Gabriel worked as a furniture maker with his father until he immigrated to America in 1913. He then served in WWI before settling in Eureka, California where he worked as a carpenter and gardener. Gabriel is mostly known for the wooden sculpture garden he built on his property. He began the wooden garden in the early 1950s in lieu of real flowers, which he was unable to grow. Over the next three decades, Gabriel continued adding various wooden decorations to the garden.
Most of the sculptures were made from scrap wood and fruit boxes, which he cut out using a hand saw and painted. Several of the piece within the garden served to express his political views instead of being purely decorative. Some of these pieces were more complex and contained various lighting and animatronic elements. Over time the sculpture garden began to gain more notoriety, being frequently featured in drive-by tours. Photographs of the sculpture garden have been exhibited at both Harvard and M.I.T and featured in various magazines and other publications. Several of the pieces themselves have toured around Europe and been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Gabriel had originally intended to leave the sculpture garden to the city of Eureka but passed without an official will in 1977. His property was subsequently sold and the garden dismantled. After community efforts in the next few years, many pieces were acquired, restored, and reassembled. They are now permanently displayed in public exhibition in Eureka.
Digitally preserved, 2021.
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