January 8, 2011 is the 25th anniversary of the destruction of Adam Purple's monumental "earthwork" The Garden of Eden. Memorializing the occasion, photos of the artwork and the artist by acclaimed photographer Harvey Wang (also director of The Last New Yorker) will be displayed for the first time at the FusionArts Museum on Stanton Street, from February 1 - 20.
Garden of Eden, by Harvey Wang
Constructed and maintained from 1978 to 1985, the Garden of Eden was a massive green artwork on the Lower East Side, thriving amidst the rubble of a burning and collapsing neighborhood. "As the buildings around fell," wrote New York Magazine in 1991, "the garden grew. Soon its concentric circles of tomatoes, corn, and flowers covered five lots and fed its neighbors."
According to the press release, by the time of its destruction in 1986 the garden "had grown to 15,000 square feet. Among the many crops and flowers were 100 rose bushes and 45 fruit and nut trees. Adam 'zenvisioned' the Garden expanding until it replaced the skyscrapers of New York." But that was not to be.
After the destruction, by Harvey Wang
In the 1980s, the city stepped in with an urban renewal plan for the Lower East Side, and a lengthy battled ensued. Purple and his neighbors lost, the city won. Chris Flash reported in The Shadow, "By 1985, Adam says, the city considered The Garden of Eden a threat: 'They couldn't just say go away, so they found a HUD project and got all the local poverty pimps to jump up and down and say we need housing, we don't need flowers. They divide the community, conquer it, and everybody loses.'"
Wrote Flash, "Rudolph Giuliani, as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, oversaw the legal effort to destroy The Garden of Eden."
Adam Purple, by Harvey Wang
Adam Purple, wrote the New York Times, is "one of New York City's living treasures, an ornery gadfly, a freelance anarchist." One of a vanishing breed. He recently said, looking back on what was lost, "I still feel that it would have been better to kill me and leave the garden."
Watch a slideshow and listen to the story of the Garden's life and death here--then support the exhibit by making a donation, and getting a photo print, at Kickstarter: