Peacocks and rocks – Petersen Rock Gardens

Petersen Rock Gardens – Rasmus Petersen

1883 — 1952
Redmond, OR
Environment with rocks
Built: 1935 – 1952
Open to the public

Castles and bridges, malachite and thundereggs, ponds and peacocks. This is one of the most underrated folk art environments in the United States. The constructions are very sophisticated, the landscaping is incredible, and the site has been well maintained by the family. It’s only a little bit hard to find; just look for the patch of bright blue Oregon sky above. (And don’t miss the fluorescent rock display in the museum.)

Peacocks have a really good gig at this place.  We found what seemed like dozens of them perched and preening all around the castles, bridges, towers and lovely rock chapels that make up the Petersen Gardens.

All the rockwork was  constructed out here on the edge of the mountains by a Danish farmer named Rasmus Petersen  No art training, and it really started innocently enough.  He built one rockery near the house, people said it was nice, and off he went, doing much of the work inside in the winter and erecting it when warm weather came.

There’s a marker near the oddly proportioned Lady Liberty that presides over one corner of the complex which says “enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.”  Prophetically enough, Rasmus died when he was still in the thick of creating this place.  No telling what more might have been added.

But a granddaughter who never got to meet him still keeps it open (on the honor system, no less) for visitors who enjoy an outdoor art experience, albeit one punctuated by an occasional loud animal outburst!

Find this site and others with the iPhone app, “Best Road Trip Ever!”

(Photos and informations courtesy of Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations)

Bibliography & Links:

“Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations Coast to Coast Travel-o-Pedia” by Randy Mason, et. al., Kansas City Star Books, 2009.

“20th Century American Folk, Self Taught, and Outsider Art” by Betty-Carol Sellen, Cynthia J. Johnson, Neal-Schuman Publishers, New York, 1993.

On DVD – Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, “No Rest in the Northwest,” KCPT, Kansas City Public Television, 2006.

“American Folk Art, A Regional Reference” by Kristin G. Congdon and Kara Kelley Hallmark, ABC-CLIO Publishers, California, 2012.

“American Self-Taught Art: An Illustrated Analysis of 20th Century Artists and Trends with 1,319 Capsule Biographies” by Florence Laffal and Julius Laffal, 2003.

“Self-Made Worlds: Visionary Environments” by Roger Manley and Mark Sloan, Aperture, New York, 1997.

“Self Taught, Outsider, and Folk Art—A guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources” by Betty-Carol Sellen with Cynthia J. Johnson, McFarland & Company, 2000.

NarrowLarry: “The Peterson Rock Gardens”