Date of Work
35mm slide, digitized 2020
James Smith Pierce Collection: Folk and Outsider Image Collection
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.
Tressa “Grandma” Prisbrey (1886-1988) lived in many different cities throughout her lifetime, including Minot, North Dakota; Seattle, Washington; and Simi Valley, California. While in California, Grandma Prisbrey created what is now known as “Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village.” Her village was made from discarded materials she obtained mostly from a nearby dump, which she upcycled into very unique structures on the plot that she lived on. She used materials such as dolls, glass bottles, pencils, and anything else that she thought would add well to her art. She created the bottle village as a way to memorialize her family, friends, and even life events. She also wanted a place to store all of her things. Her art has drawn much attention for the resourcefulness and eccentricity of it – after all, there aren’t many places where you can find sticks protruding from the ground with dolls heads on top and shacks made of old bottles and handmade cement. She created fifteen structures, but she didn’t stop there. She also handmade a road of stepping stones consisting of recycled items that she liked, flower planters, a shrine of recycled materials made to look like a rose garden, fountains, and even wishing wells.
Unsurprisingly, this village has attracted much attention since it was constructed, but it is not in the same state that it once was. An intense earthquake in 1994 damaged the village, but what is left of the site still stands. Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village is still available for touring, but an appointment must be made in advance to see this eccentric wonder.
Shown here is one of her most unique pieces of work. Grandma Prisbrey loved her dolls, and she was known to dress up some of the dolls she owned every day.
Image is provided for educational purposes only. © University of North Dakota. All rights reserved.
35 mm slide in excellent condition.