by Bambi Weavil
The Bottle Chapel At Airlie Gardens: A Tribute To Minnie Evans
by Fred Wharton and Susan Taylor Block
9 X 7
50+ full-color photographs
Purchase book online at: http://www.blairpub.com/cultural%20studies/bottlechapel.html
Minnie Evans, one of the most talented and important visionary artists to ever come out of North Carolina, has inspired many with her colorful, imaginative and spiritual visual art. Evans’ take on color, mysticism, and symmetry made her garden-infused art unique at the beautiful Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, NC.
Minnie Evans was more than a gatekeeper to Wilmington’s historic Airlie Gardens; she is considered one of America’s most important visionary artists. Drawing and painting for Evans was a highly religious experience, and she believed she was called to draw by God. While employed at Airlie Gardens from 1949 to 1974, Evans created some of her most intriguing work. Using whatever supplies she had, usually wax crayons, she depicted, in vibrant colors and symmetrical patterns, leaves, flowers, statuary and mystical creatures. Minnie Evans lived long enough to know of her fame yet it
did not faze her. She continued to draw until her death, on December 16, 1987. It seemed only appropriate that her life and work be commemorated in the garden. “It was therefore an inspired decision,” as author Fred Wharton writes, “to create the Minnie Evans Memorial Sculpture Garden— a garden within the garden, in the very place where she worked as a gatekeeper, where she experienced her visions and where she created her art.”
Wharton chronicles the inspiration, design, and construction of the Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens, a tribute to Minnie Evans. With over fifty full-color photographs and a narrative based on interviews with all eight Bottle Chapel artists, this book collects, for the first time, the story of Minnie Evans in her own words, her visionary art, and the garden that now memorializes her.
The centerpiece of the tribute is a 17-foot-high, seven-sided chapel sculpted from thousands of glass bottles, cement and metal armature by lead artist Virginia Wright-Frierson.
What I enjoyed about the book is how each artist had felt a connection to Evans’ life and work, and brought their talents together individually to make such a collective statement and timeless tribute to Evans’ talent. Each artist incorporated something unique about Evans’ expressions in her artwork, with such love and attention dedicated to each detail, into their tribute to Evans. I’m looking forward to seeing their tribute to Minnie Evans up close and in person, as I was brought up in school studying Evans’ art legacy. I’m confident that Minnie Evans would be humbled and proud that her work has touched so many lives and will continue to do so in the place that inspired her.
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