Minnie Evans Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens

Minnie

Nestled among towering oak trees, flowering magnolias, thousands of colorful camellias, tulips and azaleas, over 10 acres of freshwater lakes and filled with walking trails, wildlife, statuary and sculptures  is the quintessential Southern garden known as Airlie Gardens. What started as a private garden in 1901 for a wealthy industrialist is now a 67-acre jewel owned by New Hanover County, in Wilmington, NC. It is open to the public.

The Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden is a memorial installation dedicated in honor of the visionary folk artist, Minnie Evans. It contains The Bottle Chapel, pictured here, as well as metal and ceramic sculptures and mosaics designed by Wlimington artist Virginia Wright-Frierson, and completed with the help of local volunteers and schoolchildren.

The bottle house construction is a 16-foot high roofless chapel built out of bottles of various sizes, shapes, and color and arranged to recreate images and symbols found in the work of Minnie Evans.

Evans was a self-taught African-American artist known for her works depicting a world based on her brightly colored dreams and visions. For twenty-five years, from 1949 to 1974, Evans worked as the gatekeeper at Airlie Gardens. She first began creating her vivid images with crayons and colored pencils, often while sitting in the little wooden gatehouse, and later switched to using oil paints as well.  Evans died in 1987 at the age of 95 and is now considered one of America’s most important visionary artists. Her work has been shown internationally, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and is also in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

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