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Archive for February 5th, 2011

I have a book that I often find myself flipping through in the studio.  It’s  Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visioionary Artists from author John Beardsley.  It is an overview of various atist gardens around the world, documenting the creative and idiosyncratic outdoor worlds made by average folks who have a drive to leave some sort of mark on the world.  It’s a wonderful book that shows how strong this need to create these environments can manifest itself, often becoming the driving force in the lives of those who undertake them.

One of my favorites is the Garden of Eden, located in the booming metropolis of Lucas, Kansas, population 460.  Built there by Civil War veteran Samuel Perry Dinsmoor, it started as a home built for Dinsmoor’s family.  In the timber-bare plains of Kansas, Dinsmoor painstakingly built a cabin  from limestone slabs carved to look like logs.  After completing the house, he soon set to building his vision formed from Biblical tales,  mixed in with his unique view of the world at the time, as he saw them.  Built over steel and chicken wire, each element is made with handformed concrete, sealed well to keep it from deteriorating in the unrelenting weather of the plains.  It soon spread to cover most of the 1/2 acre lot and became a well known Kansas roadside attraction. 

Dinsmoor was quite a character and saw his creation as a way to support his family long after he was gone.  He married his second wife when he was eighty years old.  She was 20 and they had two children before his death in 1932 at the age of 89.  Wanting to still be a presence, he proceeded to build a final structure on the lot– a mausoleum constructed from the same limetone logs as he had incorporated in his home.  In a final attempt to provide for his family after his death , he built a tomb that allowed paying visitors to view his embalmed body through a viewing panel.  You can still take a look at the leathery and somewhat mildewed creator of this Earthly Garden of Eden today.

I’m glad that Dinsmoor’s garden still prospers today.  The sculpture seems to be in great shape, seeming as vibrant as they must have nearly 100 years ago. Someday I must wander across the plains to Lucas and give it a gander and pay my respects to its builder.

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