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Places for the Spirit:
by photographer Vaughn Sills

Friday, March 6 - Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Lyman Plant House, Church Exhibition Gallery
Click images to enlarge.
Annie Belle Sturghill's Garden, Athens, GA, 1988

For twenty years, photographer Vaughn Sills collected images of a gardening style that, despite its long history, is unknown to most horticulturists and is disappearing quickly.

Sills traveled through the Deep South searching out African American folk gardens: those yards and gardens that reflect in form and organization some of the earliest African American religious and cultural traditions.

Inez Faust's Yard, Oglethorpe County, GA, 1991

Sills' stunning black and white photography emphasizes the space and layout of the gardens rather than specific plantings. This contrasts strongly with the color-driven, visual orderliness of plantings in European horticultural styles.

The photographs are more than documentation. As works of art, they are about light, form, space, and perspective as well as the beautiful creations they are depicting. The images evoke the hot southern sun and the soft humid air of the South. They offer a doorway into another world.

A selection of 30 photographs from Sill's book, Places for the Spirit; TRADITIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN GARDENS, and information panels will be on display in the exhibit.

About Sills:

Vaughn Sills lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has exhibited widely, showing her work in museums and galleries, with several of her shows in the galleries of botanic gardens. Vaughn is Associate Professor Emerita at Simmons College.

Vaughn Sills

Throughout her work, Vaughn is concerned with two primary and connected threads: first, who we are because of our families — our psychological and sociological circumstances, and second, how the landscape both affects our experience and is influenced by human lives. In her later work, the spiritual aspect of human life is reflected in the landscapes of gardens, and other cultivated and uncultivated land.

photo by Sarah V. Wilson

Vaughn has received several significant awards. Twice she received the Artist's Fellowship in Photography by the Massachusetts Cultural Council; and she was given an award from Artadia Dialogue for Art and Culture among others. Her photographs and books earned the Gold Award from Garden Writers Association, and the Magazine Association for the Southeast.

Link to MassLive article on the exhibit.


Commencement & Reunion
Medicinal Plants Conservatory Exhibit

The Healing Power of Plants
May 1 through May 31, 2015 - 8:30 am to 4:00 pm daily
Physiology House, Lyman Conservatory

See some of the most widely used and important medicinal plants from around the world.

Plants used for traditional practices often have important compounds that are extracted to make medicines bought at the pharmacy. One such plant featured in the exhibit, the Madagascar periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus, was originally believed by World War II soldiers stationed in the Philippines to be a helpful substitute for insulin in diabetes patients. More recently, however, the compounds vincristine and vinblastine, found in the Madagascar periwinkle, have proven helpful in the treatment of certain kinds of cancer.

Some other plants featured in the exhibit include stevia, Stevia rebaudiana, turmeric, Curcuma longa, and lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus. This exhibit gives an introduction to these and other medicinal plants and how they are used in different healing practices around the world today.

Curated by Botanic Garden Intern Shabnam Kapur '16.


Permanent installation of 178 different kinds of wood.
Lyman Plant House
See exhibit

Article about botanic garden exhibitions in Public Garden  
Smith College