Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens

Friday, March 6, 2015 to Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Church Exhibition Gallery, Lyman Plant House

Intro | Information Panels | Exhibit Photo Gallery

For twenty years, photographer Vaughn Sills collected images of a gardening style that, despite its long history, is unknown to most horticulturists and is disappearing quickly.

Sills traveled through the Deep South searching out African American folk gardens: those yards and gardens that reflect in form and organization some of the earliest African American religious and cultural traditions.

Sills' stunning black and white photography emphasizes the space and layout of the gardens rather than specific plantings. This contrasts strongly with the color-driven, visual orderliness of plantings in European horticultural styles.

The photographs are more than documentation. As works of art, they are about light, form, space, and perspective as well as the beautiful creations they are depicting. The images evoke the hot southern sun and the soft humid air of the South. They offer a doorway into another world.

A selection of 30 photographs from Sill's book, Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens, and information panels will be on display in the exhibit.

About Sills:

Vaughn Sills photo by Sarah V. Wilson

Vaughn Sills lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has exhibited widely, showing her work in museums and galleries, with several of her shows in the galleries of botanic gardens. Vaughn is Associate Professor Emerita at Simmons College. Throughout her work, Vaughn is concerned with two primary and connected threads: first, who we are because of our families — our psychological and sociological circumstances, and second, how the landscape both affects our experience and is influenced by human lives. In her later work, the spiritual aspect of human life is reflected in the landscapes of gardens, and other cultivated and uncultivated land.

Vaughn has received several significant awards. Twice she received the Artist's Fellowship in Photography by the Massachusetts Cultural Council; and she was given an award from Artadia Dialogue for Art and Culture among others. Her photographs and books earned the Gold Award from Garden Writers Association, and the Magazine Association for the Southeast. More about Sills


Places for the Spirit