Human Flower Project

Shoe Gardens

Pumps and cowboys boots contain alyssum and garden authorship.


At Rosa’s Garden of Love, Buffalo, NY

Photo: Marcus Yam, Buffalo News

Born under Pisces, we perceive feet with intensity. So Deidre Williams’s story from Buffalo, NY, could not fail to kickstart a response. Williams observes the assorted community gardens growing on vacant lots of the city’s rundown East Side: a plum and apple orchard, an allotment of evergreens, one plot all reds. whites and blues in the shape of Old Glory…. The newest garden underway has been planted, edged and decorated with scores of empty shoes.

“I get tired every time I turn on the television, there’s something negative about the East Side,” says Rosa Gibson, who directs the Community Action Information Center on Wohlers Street.  She instigated the gardens “to improve the quality of life here. These are for the kids who have never seen fruit grow on trees.”

Standing a sandal or a high-heel pump inside a flower bed weighs in on the human side of the Human Flower Project. In these sneakers and loafers, as in Vincent van Gogh’s much scribbled about paintings of Peasant Shoes, synecdoche is growing. With footwear in the garden, as chard matures or petunias flower one won’t forget the human intention behind them.

In a philosophical mood this morning? Uh oh! Scurry on out to these cerebral shoe sites, with references to Heidegger, Marx, Jameson and other intellectual big-boots. Here’s what appears to be a proto-syllabus for a course entitled Shoes: Postmodern, Poststructural, Postcolonial Rereading of Encyclopedism with good links and a bibliography.


Diamond Dust (1980) by Andy Warhol

Image: Galleria Rosini

Jameson’s essay on Late Capitalism contrasts Van Gogh’s shoe paintings with Andy Warhol’s silkscreens of footwear. Vincent, you may remember, started out to be a preacher, but Warhol’s first livelihood was commercial art: “In the mid-‘50s he became the chief illustrator for I. Miller Shoes, and in 1957 a shoe advertisement won him the Art Director’s Club Medal.” After marching into the art world with Brillo Boxes and Campbell Soup cans, he returned to shoes in his Diamond Dust series of 1980. Of course, he was fond of flower imagery, too.

Warhol was born on this date in 1927 (?). Happy birthday, Andy! May you have escaped all worldly packaging and confines.

If you’re going to San Francisco, make sure to check on this shoe garden at Alamo Square. We found a 2003 story about David Clifton’s masterpiece and hope it’s growing strong.

Hoofing back to Buffalo now, if you’d like to make a donation of money, shoes or plants to Rosa’s Garden of Love, call 716-885-5925 and ask for Gibson. There will be a gathering at the Community Action Center for all the garden’s donors on August 15.


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