Friday, August 13, 2010

Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas

If you're ever crossing Kansas, be sure to head north of I-70 a few miles to Lucas.

Its most famous attraction is The Garden of Eden, a concrete sculpture park surrounding a stone "log cabin" built by S.P. Dinsmoor in the early 20th century. A Civil War veteran, he began building the house and then the sculptures when he retired from teaching and farming at 64.

Even the name is rendered in concrete among the concrete "trees."

Inside the house, there are many interesting details of Dinsmoor's design and construction (plus air conditioning, which was a bonus since it was 100 degrees outside). In the basement, there's a barbed wire room next to the kitchen.

Adam and Eve form an arch at the front of the yard.

An arbor extends behind them.

Eve with the serpent.

A close-up of Adam.

While Dinsmoor was clearly motivated by religion in many of his sculptures, several others were of a more populist political bent. This one shows an archetypal female figure stabbing an octopus (representing monopolies), while below a man and woman use the ballot to saw away at the base.

This was Dinsmoor's last sculpture, made when he was in his mid-80s (in the late 1920s).

In the center is Labor, crucified.

The four figures around him are his affliction, stealing his money. A preacher...

...and banker.

Dinsmoor had lost his sight before he could finish details on the lawyer and banker. He wrote about this sculpture, "Labor has been crucified between a thousand grafters.... [these four] are the leaders of all who eat cake by the sweat of the other fellow's face."

I was struck by a quote from Dinsmoor that was tacked to one of the cabin doors. "It's waste that makes people poor." Dinsmoor was a Free Mason and a free thinker. The grounds also hold a concrete picnic pavilion, where he would host debates on the issues of the day.

True to his iconoclastic nature, Dinsmoor arranged to have himself entombed in a sculptural mausoleum on his property. His body is there to this day, and can be seen as part of the tour. The volunteer tour guide told us that he used to lie in his casket before he was dead so people could see what the mausoleum would look like once it was complete. (Which would, perhaps, make him the first performance artist.)

Visit the funky Garden of Eden website

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