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Issue Date: June 2013

Secret Garden

by James Bigley II

For those of you looking to increase home security, consider hanging upside-down pots from a tree in your front yard. Vaughn Sills, the Boston photographer behind the series Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens, says an upside-down vessel is meant to capture evil spirits. Sills traveled through the South from 1985 to 2005 and took black and white photographs of African-American folk gardens created with these mystical purposes in mind. Her works will be on display June 28-Sept. 29 at the Cleveland Botanical Garden's Guren Art Gallery. Along the way, Sills met intriguing characters behind the gardens such as Annie Belle Sturghill of Athens, Ga., who thoughtfully and intentionally placed rumpled aluminum foil and empty egg cartons in her garden (pictured left). "She told me she goes out every day and rearranges them," Sills says. "Things that reflect light are really important, because they're reflections of the divine."

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