Whatever name you give it, here are 10 places to see outsider art environments around the world. Many are made from found objects, and they are often fantastical in design and execution.

I ATTENDED A lecture on “outsider art” in Philadelphia. The setting was an ideal one for the topic – in the workshop of Isaiah Zagar, the artist who created the folk art environment called the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia.

“Outsider art” is a term that is also used to describe what Jean Dubuffet called “art brut,” which translated means “raw art.” Dubuffet came up with the phrase to describe art created by those without professional training and creating art outside of the “normal” society like prisoners and psychiatric patients. It is also sometimes called folk art or naive art. And the outdoor installations can be “visionary environments.” Depending on who you speak to and what place you’re talking about, a differing name may apply.


Magic Gardens in Philadelphia

The Magic Gardens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania started as a vacant lot that Isaiah Zagar wanted to beautify. It's combination of mosaic tiles, Latin American sculptures, bottles, and found objects split over several levels. Photo: author.


Magic Gardens in Philadelphia

Messages can be found throughout. Photo: author.


Le Palais Idéal in Hauterives, France

The French postman Ferdinand Cheval spent 33 years building his Le Palais Idéal (Ideal Palace). He would pick up stones along his mail route, and add them to the walls of the building one by one. Photo: misterdi.


Watts Towers in Los Angeles

Watts Towers by Simon Rodia is a set of 17 sculptural structures made from steel pipe and covered in mortar. They are decorated with found objects, and it was built completely by hand. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, they were slated to be demolished in the 1950s. Locals and folk art lovers from around the world came together to save the towers. Photo: Neil Armstrong2


Watts Towers in Los Angeles

Close up of one of the towers. Photo: Pierre LaScott.


La Maison Picassiette in Chartres, France

In Chartres, France, La Maison Picassiette was created by Raymond Isidore. He was a cemetery sweeper, and he collected old bits of poettery and glass to cover an entire home. Pictured here is a copy of Chartres cathedral. Photo: author.


Tarot Garden in Tuscany, Italy

The Tarot Garden in Tuscany, Italy is a sculpture garden where all the art is based upon tarot cards. The sculptures were built by Catherine Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle. After a visit to Barcelona to see Gaudi's park, she became inspired. Seen here is the Magician. Photo: mararie


Tarot Garden in Tuscany, Italy

As she was working on The Tarot Garden, she lived in The Empress. Photo: Yellow.Cat


Statues at the Rock Garden of Chandigarh

Nek Chand Saini started building the Rock Garden of Chandigarh in 1957. The sculpture garden, with courtyards and waterfalls, now covers 40 acres, and it is made completely of scrap materials. Photo: Rishu83.


The Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas

Philip Dinsmoor was a retired schoolteacher in Lucas, Kansas. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, he built his Garden of Eden entirely out of limestone and concrete. Depicting scenes from the Bible and with Socialist embellishments, the site is also where Dinsmoor is buried - in a glass-lidded coffin. Photo: Kansas Poetry (Patrick).


The Owl House in Nieu-Bethesda, South Africa

The Owl House in South Africa was made out of glass and concrete by Helen Martins. There are hundreds of reliefs and sculptures, inspired by Omar Khayyam's poetry, the Bible, and William Blake. Photo: andy_carter


Forevertron in North Freedom, Wisconsin

Forevertron is the world's largest sculpture. It's 320 tons of scrap metal built by Dr. Evermor/Tom Every. The Forevertron was "designed and built in a timeframe of around 1890... whereas our dear doctor is a scholarly professor who thought he could perpetuate himself through the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam inside a glass ball inside a copper egg." Photo: Ethan Hein.


Salvation Mountain in California

Salvation Mountain in southern California has been featured in films like Into the Wild. The "mountain" is built from adobe clay and it's 50 feet high and 150 feet wide. The inspiration comes from Leonard Knight's spiritual beliefs. Photo: bdearth.