PEARL FRYAR

(AMERICAN, BORN 1939)

Topiary, 2013
hetz juniper trees
dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist

Voltaire’s Candide leaves the reader with the sage advice to “tend your garden.” When African-American artist Pearl Fryar began his remarkable topiary garden in Bishopville, South Carolina,  he was not thinking about sculpture, but about winning the "garden of the month" competition. Transfiguring what were "throw-away" plants from a local garden center has paid unexpected dividends to both Fryar and the world. His sustained act of pruning became recognized as sculpture, and his love for ornamental gardens became a charming story of a hometown, horticultural miracle. Bishopville is now a Mecca for expert “topiarians” from green-fingered nations as far away as Japan and England. Watching Fryar wield his buzzing hedge trimmer is just as much fun as viewing the final designs. Because these forms are living things, the Park’s staff and volunteer Master Gardeners trim and prune Topiary every few months. Laumeier is proud to harbor and tend three examples of Fryar's undulating arboreal triangles, spheres and spirals in our garden, adding to the oasis of our cultural landscape.

Sculpture Interaction Guideline: Look, But Do Not Touch


Artist Biography

Pearl Fryar is a self-taught topiary artist living in Bishopville, South Carolina. Fryar was born a sharecropper's son in small town Clinton, North Carolina in 1939. He worked for ten years in New York with American National Can Company. He was then transferred to Bishopville where he finally put down his roots.  In the early 1980s, Fryar began developing his 2 acre yard, in an effort to win "Yard of the Month" from the local garden club. He developed a passion for topiary and began to grow living sculptures on his property and in 1985 he won Yard of the Month all the while honing his style and technique and expanding his garden. In 2006, the documentary A Man Named Pearl was released to critical acclaim.  Directed and produced by Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson, since its release, it has won many awards and has been screened throughout the country. Fryar is widely recognized by art and botanical enthusiasts as he continues to care for his garden year round, welcoming visitors from all over the world. Eventually he created the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden Inc. and the Garden Conservancy, two non-profits that work together to maintain and preserve the garden, continually raising funds to keep it open to the public far into the future.