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Discover Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, North Carolina

January 09, 2018  •  1 Comment

bottle chapel

I was looking at photos I have taken this year so far and I rediscovered the photos I took in Airlie Garden of the larger-than-life art by Virginia Wright-Frierson with other local artists in Wilmington area.  It is called the Bottle Chapel, which is constructed out of bottles, mementos, chicken wire, colorful tiles and broken plates (or cups I think).  The art is her tribute to the late Minnie Evans, a folk artist in the 20th century.  Minnie apparently worked in Airlie Gardens as Gatekeeper and who knows probably in spirit she still does. The bottle chapel is such a wonderful tribute that once you spot it you will get drawn to it.  The bottles sparkling under the sun and some even have liquid inside must be from water collected when it rains, or could it be whiskey?  I even spotted a humming bird (when you also find it, come back to this blog and let me know). Who would have known that Aunt Jemima syrup bottle would end up a pretty cool part of an artistic structure. 


Aunt Jemima syrup bottle

Minnie did not have formal training and never had wealthy sponsors.  I highly doubted that she traveled far to get inspiration for her art.  Her artistic visions came from her color-filled dreams.  Her son, George Evans, have said that she was just doing what the Lord told her to do and she was more interested in pleasing God than people.  Another common theme with her art is the strong representation of the eyes and apparently that was her own tribute to the most amazing artist of all.  The eyes represented God's omniscience.

bottle chapel

Minnie Evans had a humble simple life appreciating and expressing art in her own way.  It is interesting to know her introduction to the wonderful world of artistic expressions.  Reading some information about her from my trusted source, Wikipedia (okey, no laughing please and opinions not allowed), I read that one day she just had a dream in which a voice asked her "Why don't you draw or die?" I guess it must have been such a powerful epiphany that supposedly she ran out of her bedroom screaming and ended up completing some drawings that morning.  You know I could relate. Back when I was exclusively doing designing, there were nights when I just could not sleep because I had nagging design ideas in my head.  Actually this was happening even when I was back in high school and doing designs back then.  Now with photography, I just couldn't stop thinking of ideas for posing, for locations and for creative pixel pushing afterwards. 

colorful bottles

I felt compelled to blog after seeing those photos of the bottle chapel and read up on Minnie's story.  Artistic talent never goes away.  It is like energy, it is never destroyed; it just transforms or sometimes may lay dormant until rekindled. Minnie did not even start until she was in her 40s.  I know that I still have a lot to learn in this craft and I feel that I will never be fully knowledgeable because there is always something new to know, learn and try. However, I never doubt my ability and creativity.  In addition, my husband and my son have taken up the craft and have rekindled their passion for visual creative expression through the lens. If these photos in our website are what we are producing now very early in our photography endeavor, then I am so excited to continue and find out what much more beautiful and stunning creation we would showcase later on.   It is not when you start that matters it is how you will finish. So go on artists of all ages and backgrounds, follow your heart's calling....We are, Virginia is and Minnie did too.

bottle chapel


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