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Traditional African American Gardens

Submitted by on July 14, 2012 – 8:46 amNo Comment

“Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens” opens today (July 14, 2012) in the Joutras Gallery at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois (map).

Vaughn Sills, a fine art photographer, took these pictures of African American folk gardens and their creators from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

In the spirit of “outsider” art traditions, the roots of blues music and other folk manifestations, these gardens have a unique aesthetic and cultural significance. The gardens are places to socialize and be creative, but they also have mystical purposes: bottles and plant pots are put in tree branches or intentionally placed in the garden to capture evil spirits; pipes are placed vertically in the ground to allow the spirits of ancestors to communicate with the living. In the deceptively casual or whimsical arrangements are subtle and symbolic reminders of the divine in everyday life and the cycles of the natural world.

Sills has exhibited her work in galleries and museums on the East Coast and in the South. In 2009 she received an Artist’s Fellowship in Photography by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Places for the Spirit, Traditional African American Gardens, published by Trinity University Press, will be available for purchase in the Garden Shop.

This exhibition, which closes September 30, 2012, is in collaboration with Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History, which will be hosting additional photographs in a companion exhibition.

(Photo by Vaughn Sills, courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden)

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