Garden of mystery
By Joseph Mooney
Experience an exhibit of black-and-white fine-art photographs of African American folk gardens and their creators, on display through March 10 at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens at the University of Michigan.
Traveling throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, photographer and
author Vaughn Sills, an associate professor of photography at Simmons College in Boston, sought out these gardens, and her evocative images capture a disappearing element of the American landscape.
In her search for gardens Sills drove through small towns and cities and along country roads. “As I look at my photographs now and try to define what compelled me,” Sills writes, “I see a sense of both order and mystery, with a visual and soul-satisfying contrast between open space and dense arrangements of plant life.
In many of the gardens I was drawn to the myriad objects placed to reflect light, to create structure, to delight and, it seemed, to entertain. I soon learned that all of this beauty was far more than entertainment, for beyond that there was meaning of the greatest import. These gardens hold a place for spirits: the gardeners provide the means to communicate with ancestors, fend off harm, and offer security to those who enter.”
The exhibit is being held in conjunction with the U-M College of Literature, Science & the Arts winter 2013 theme semester, “Understanding Race,” which encourages exploration of the intersection of race and other identities.
Sponsored by University of Michigan College of Engineering and University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum.
Free admission; open daily 10 am-4:30 pm;
Wednesdays until 8 pm