On a recent trip to South Louisiana, I had a few days to visit and explore areas either I had not been in a long time or had not yet visited. On the first evening, the local newspaper featured an article about a sculpture garden in Chauvin (pronounced “show – van”). The few photographs and the mystery behind the sculpture garden caught my attention.
My sister-in-law wanted to take photos in morning light; so we set out on our journey early. While driving along the bayou in the early morning light, I reminisced about seeing the bayou dotted with shrimp boats while enjoying the beginning signs of spring. After a small detour, we finally located the small plot of land. Once we walked through the gates – we were transported into the private world of the artist. Clearly a message is woven throughout the small plot of land. I did not know where to look first or what area to start taking photographs. (I will feature several of them over the next few weeks.)
The experience was mesmerizing. A walk through this sculpture environment is an emotional experience, evoking a sense of deep spirituality but also revealing evidence of personal pain.
Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden
Kenny Hill, a bricklayer by day, and self-taught artist by evening and weekend, created over 100 pieces of sculpture out of cement and wire mesh. He was a private man, and the folk art pieces he created were not meant for anyone’s eyes but his. It is said he denied interviews and photographs. Not much is known about him, other than he started working on this folk art world in 1989 – 1990. He began transforming his shaded bayou environment into a mesmerizing chronicle of the world as seen through his eyes. There is a profound mixture of Biblical reference, with bright Cajun colors and stark black, with evident themes of pain, inner struggle, conflict between good and evil. A message of salvation is intertwined throughout the pieces. He has figures of black and white, male, female, a child, soldiers as well as many self-portrayals. All of the pieces are guided, supported or lifted by various versions of angels. Some of the angels seem celestial, some inviting while others seem daunting. Towards the back of the garden is the most prominent piece in the garden … a lighthouse. It is 45 feet tall, composed of 7,000 bricks, with figures clinging to the outside: cowboys, soldiers, angels, God, and Hill himself.
In January 2000, after having a disagreement with the local parish (one speculation), Kenny abruptly left the site and area. When visitors discovered his absence they found a hand painted message above the kitchen sink: “HELL IS HERE, WELCOME.”
For other photos:
Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden
For previous Monday Mellow Yellows and Mandarin Orange Monday
© by rgb for “On Dragonfly Wings with Buttercup Tea”, 2011 – 2013
The Monday tradition …