A Man Named Pearl
Art can be uniquely
tailored to the individual.
Some people can look at a
plant and just see a shrub. In the eyes of others, it may be a work of
Take, for example Pearl
Fryar was never a gardener.
He worked twelve hour days at a local can-manufacturing plant. At one
point he was looking to buy a new house is the small town of Bishopville,
South Carolina. Word filtered down that the people in the all-white
neighborhood did not want him there, because blacks never took care of their
This slight led to an
obsession with gardening which changed the man's life and has the potential
to resurrect the economically stagnant small town which once wanted to
Fryar became fascinated by
the idea of topiary - cutting trees to mold them into shapes. Usually
topiary hedges are made into animals or shapes, but Pearl's work is much
more abstract - he has created a living sculpture garden.
Personally, the idea of
topiary has never held much appeal
to me. I've seen it at parks and tended to think it was nice and then
move on quickly.
I still remember being a little frightened of
it as a child after reading the novel The Shining in which topiary
animals came to life and attacked people.
Maybe I will give it more
thought now that I have seen A Man Named Pearl.
Fryar has created a
Seussian wonderland in his back yard, a surreal botanical menagerie of
whirls, blocks, circles and planes. He is a believer in found art,
using junk, knick knacks and everyday items to complement his garden and
make it a particularly American pop art.
His hobby has been more
than a full-time job, the man works from early in the morning to late at
night to create and maintain his living artwork. Through this
passionate determination, this quiet but engaging elderly man has become a
bit of a celebrity - being seen in magazines and on television, having his
topiary studied as art at a local college and making his home a popular
Fryar does not seem to see
his work as something to make himself rich (he does seem to charge for the
tours, but I'd guess he barely makes enough for the upkeep of his spread.).
The locals seem to look at
it with more of an eye to the bottom line - the county Chamber of
Commerce head and the local preacher are just a little too open about their
plans to use Pearl's art to make money for the town.
However, by spending a
little over an hour with Pearl Fryar and his family and friends, you realize
that he really needs little in the way of fame and profit. Sometimes,
it is nice to see someone who is dedicated to art for art's sake.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: July 20, 2008.