Thursday, August 7, 2008
New Film Explores Pearl Fryar's Not-So-Secret Garden
Pearl Fryar has spent the last twenty-four years transforming his yard from a typical palette consisting of a swath of grass and a couple of box row hedges into a sort of Lewis Carroll fantasy of flora where shrubs take on mythic proportions swirling toward the sky in joyful spirals, or hugging the green earth in playful stacked mounds of varying shapes and sizes.
He shares something in common with the likes of Simon Rodia or Jeff McKissak, but aside from the obvious fact that Fryar does not work in the usual mediums associated with Dementia Concretia—concrete, glass, tile, steel—his particular creative compulsion grew out of something bigger and louder than the little voice that urges the ordinary (if such a person can be called ordinary) obsessive to toil away in his ethereal realm.
Pearl Fryar’s drive to build something beautiful, lasting and bigger than life came from a desire to overcome obstacles. The obstacle of racial intolerance. The obstacle of fear. The obstacle of ignorance. The obstacle of “no, you can’t.”
He could. And he did.
The prize for Yard of the Month in Bishopville, South Carolina had never gone to an African American. After hearing that white neighbors feared he wouldn’t keep up his yard, Pearl Fryar was determined to win that coveted prize. He knew nothing about plants and he lived just outside the prize boundaries. But those things were not about to stop him. He bought a $2.00 shrub and began sculpting. He kept at it for more than two decades, often working until midnight even after having put in a full day at his factory job. Today, he has topiaries topping twenty feet. He has not only been honored with the Iris Garden Club’s Yard of the Month Award, he’s been featured on PBS, HGTV, in Newsweek Magazine and countless other publications, and is currently the subject of a documentary film A Man Named Pearl, which can be found in limited release around the country now through October. A list of dates and venues is available at the film’s website.
Pearl’s three-acre garden of elan draws visitors from all over the world and has required a turn-around for tour buses to be built at the end of his street. He has brought his community together. He has inspired thousands with his message of love, peace and goodwill (the giant mantra is carved into his lawn). And he has created a living, breathing, constantly evolving reminder that beauty is in the believing and the doing.