Walks to the Paradise Garden: A Lowdown Southern Odyssey

Appearance Date: 11/6/2021

Walks to the Paradise Garden is the last unpublished manuscript of the late poet and provocateur Jonathan Williams. This 352-page book chronicles Williams’s road trips across the Southern United States with photographers Guy Mendes and Roger Manley in search of the most authentic and outlandish artists the South had to offer. In his own words, the author describes the project, “The people and places in Walks to the Paradise Garden exist along the blue highways of America…We have travelled many thousands of miles, together and separately, to document what tickled us, what moved us, and what (sometimes) appalled us.” The majority of these road trips took place in the 1980s, a pivotal decade in the development of Southern “yard shows” and many of the artists are now featured in major institutions. This book, however, chronicles them at the outset of their careers and provides essential context for their inclusion in the art historical canon. Walks to the Paradise Garden brings to light rare images and stories of Southern artists and creators who existed in near anonymity during the last half of the twentieth century. Organized in chapters devoted to each artist, the book features Sam Doyle, Howard Finster, Lonnie Holley, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Edgar Tolson, and many others.

Meet the Author

Guy Mendes
Guy Mendes

In 1956, Guy Mendes got his hands on his first camera—a Kodak Brownie that made black-and-white photographs. He shot photographs in New Orleans’ French Quarter, on family vacations, and of the family car. In the early 1960s, he acquired a Polaroid Swinger, which made black-and-white instant prints. He photographed his cat and his feet and his bedroom. In 1968, he acquired a 35 mm camera, a Pentax. He photographed anti-war protests and the giant Peabody Shovel stripping coal. Inspired by his teachers Ralph Eugene Meatyard and James Baker Hall, he began using large-and medium-format film cameras. In the 1990s, he began using digital cameras while continuing to shoot film for the beautiful silver prints that it yields. Mendes teaches Darkroom Photography at the UK School of Art & Visual Studies. His books include Local Light, Light At Hand and 40/40—Forty Years Forty Portraits. His most recent exhibit, “Where Paradise Lay—Art and Sanctuary in the South,” was at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC) in Louisville June through November of last year. His photographs have been published in Aperture, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Oxford American, The Smithsonian, Garden & Gun and Orion Quarterly. His prints are in collections including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the UK Art Museum, the U of L Photographic Archives, Churchill Downs, Makers’ Mark and the Federal Reserve Bank. Mendes has lived and worked in Kentucky since graduating from UK in 1970. He worked at KET for 35 years, first as a graphic artist, and then as a writer, producer, and director.

Join us Saturday, November 6!

Visit Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington KY for a full day of programs and more than 140 authors on-site to meet-and-greet and sign books! Doors open at 10:00 a.m. See the “Events” page to see Saturday’s schedule.

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