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Photography & Art

The Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens

The Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens
A Tribute to Minnie Evans / A Pictorial Guide to the Installation Designed and Built by Virginia Wright-Frierson
Fred Wharton
Introduction and Epilogue by Susan Taylor Block


The Publishing Laboratory of UNC Wilmington
$19.95 paperback with flaps
9 x 7
32 pages; color photographs throughout
Published in 2008
North Carolina, Photography & Art

The gatekeeper of Wilmington’s historic Airlie Gardens from 1949 to 1974, Minnie Evans is considered one of America’s most important visionary artists. Evans’s take on color, mysticism, and symmetry made her garden-infused art unique. “It was therefore an inspired decision,” Airlie Gardens Guild member Fred Wharton writes, “to create the Minnie Evans Memorial Sculpture Garden—a garden within the garden, in the very place where she worked as a gatekeeper, where she experienced her visions, and where she created her art.”

Wharton chronicles the inspiration, design, and year-long construction of the installation, including its centerpiece, a seventeen-foot-high, seven-sided chapel sculpted from thousands of glass bottles, cement, and metal armature by Wilmington artist Virginia Wright-Frierson. To create a fitting memorial, vibrant with the symbolism and elaborate designs found in Evans’s work, Wright-Frierson assembled a team of North Carolinians to interpret the artist’s themes in various media. With over fifty full-color photographs and a narrative based on interviews with all eight Bottle Chapel artists, this book collects, for the first time, the story of Minnie Evans, her visionary art, and the garden that now memorializes her.

Bottle Chapel Artists:

Virginia Wright-Frierson, Designer & Lead Artist
Karen Crouch
Dumay Gorham
Brooks Koff
Hiroshi Sueyoshi
Barbara Sullivan
Tejuola Turner
Michael van Hout


View Airlie Gardens’ Web site at

For more information about Minnie Evans, visit