Encyclopedia of American Folk Art

By Gerard C.Wertkin; Lee Kogan | Go to book overview

Chase, Theodore, and Laurel K. Gabel. Gravestone Chronicles: Some Eighteenth-Century New England Carvers and Their Work. Boston, 1990.
Farber, Daniel, and Jessie Lie Farber. Early American Gravestones. Worcester, Mass., 1997.
Forbes, Harriette Merrifield. Gravestones of Early New England and the Men Who Made Them, 1653-1800. Brooklyn, N.Y., 1989.
Ludwig, Allan I. Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and Its Symbols, 1650-1815. Middletown, Conn., 1966.
Neal, Avon, and Ann Parker. Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England. Hamden, Conn., 1987.


GRECO, JOHN (1893-1986)

conceived this nation's Lilliputian version of the Middle East, HolyLand U.S.A. Standing atop Pine Hill in Waterbury, Connecticut, HolyLand is an instructional and educational visual aid about the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ. Greco is enshrined in his charmingly monumental, epic recreation of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Constructed in 1956 as a tourist site, HolyLand in its heyday, in the late 1960s, had more than 40,000 visitors annually; since the artist's death in 1986, however, his folk art environment has been threatened by vandalism, budget cuts, and religious doctrine.

Greco, the son of an immigrant Italian cobbler, was born in Waterbury. He entered the seminary as a young man and studied law at Yale University, later founding a law practice in Waterbury. In 1956 he bought seventeen acres of dry, eroded land on Pine Hill for $7,000. Though lacking architectural or engineering expertise, he devised an ingenious design of roads, foundations, and terraced hills. Greco carted thousands of tons of concrete up the hills and planted bushes and trees. Aided by volunteers who called themselves the Bucket Brigade, the artist transformed the hill in four years. Then he started to build a miniature version of Jerusalem along with the multitude of shrines lining the many paths of HolyLand.

Didacticism was the motivating force for the artist; John Greco's aim was to spread the word of God. He willingly employed an unconventional method, simultaneously using HolyLand as a visual aid and theme park, to realize his vision. Hundreds of dioramas, grottoes, habitats, shrines, temples, and tombs litter the labyrinth of paths winding around the hill. An exacting artist, Greco traveled to Israel and photographed sites pertinent to Christ's life. Maps and photographs were studied so that HolyLand U.S.A. might be an accurate reproduction of the Holy Land in the Middle East. At the base of HolyLand is a postcard panorama of Jerusalem, with hundreds of buildings constructed in miniature scale. The style of windows, flat roofs, and soft hues of little Jerusalem accurately evoke HolyLand's namesake.

Time, harsh weather, careless vandalism, and strict Church doctrine have all contributed to the decline of HolyLand U.S.A. While folk art enthusiasts applauded HolyLand for its alluring aesthetic qualities and its testimony to the human spirit, the Catholic community viewed it as an outmoded expression of religious piety. The densely ornamented environment did not reflect the Church's plans to streamline its symbols. In response, in 1988 a group of concerned citizens formed the "Committee to Save HolyLand."

Efforts are still underway to preserve this folk art environment, now viewed by fewer than 1,000 visitors each year.

See also Environments, Folk.

Ludwig, Allan I. "HolyLand U.S.A.: A Consideration of Naïve and Visionary Art." The Clarion (summer 1979): 28-39.
Prince, Daniel C. "Folk Art Environments: Environments in Crisis." The Clarion, vol. 13, no. 1 (winter 1988): 44-51.





a portrait painter, worked in New England during the early nineteenth century. Born in Hull, Massachusetts, the artist was the son of Mary and John Greenleaf. He married Abigail Greenleaf Rhoades (Rhodes) of Dorchester, Massachusetts, on November 20, 1799. Greenleaf's career as an artist is defined primarily by his portraits, which give an indication of where he secured commissions, the nature of his clientele, and the stylistic features of his work. Paper labels attached to backing boards, as well as a handful of diary references, offer additional insight into his career.

According to biographers Arthur and Sybil Kern, Greenleaf worked within a small circle of contacts; several of his sitters were acquainted or interrelated through marriage. Predominantly made up of members of New England's middle classes, the artist's known subjects were doctors, military officers, clergymen, and their families. Dating from 1803, the portrait of Jacob Goold, a Weymouth, Massachusetts resident, as well as Greenleaf's great uncle, is the artist's earliest known composition, and is executed in oil on canvas mounted on board, a technique common to his initial experiments with portraiture. Over a career spanning at least fifteen years, from 1803 to 1818, Greenleaf principally used reverse painting on glass


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Encyclopedia of American Folk Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Introduction xxvii
  • A 1
  • B 35
  • Bibliography 75
  • C 79
  • Bibliography 107
  • Bibliography 111
  • D 113
  • Bibliography 144
  • E 145
  • Bibliography 153
  • F 161
  • Bibliography 166
  • Bibliography 171
  • G 189
  • Bibliography 203
  • Bibliography 210
  • H 217
  • Bibliography 225
  • Bibliography 235
  • I 247
  • Bibliography 249
  • J 251
  • K 269
  • Bibliography 273
  • L 279
  • M 293
  • Bibliography 309
  • Bibliography 311
  • N 337
  • O 349
  • P 355
  • Bibliography 388
  • Q 411
  • R 421
  • Bibliography 433
  • S 447
  • Bibliography 450
  • Bibliography 472
  • Bibliography 484
  • Bibliography 490
  • Bibliography 494
  • Bibliography 496
  • T 509
  • U 527
  • V 529
  • W 539
  • Bibliography 540
  • Bibliography 546
  • Bibliography 556
  • Y 561
  • Index 569


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