Lawn ornaments are produced from a variety of materials, the most common being wood, metal, ceramic, and concrete. Recycled materials are frequently used in homemade ornaments, although some pieces can be mass-produced on a small scale (such as whirligigs made from aluminum soda cans). With the emergence of DIY culture, several resources have sprung into existence, such as community groups that share tips and artistic practices, how-to guides, and displays of yard art. “Gardens are as unique as the people who tend them , and most gardeners share a desire to create an outdoor space that is an extension of the home, a place to work and relax.” (Doran 6)
Cement is a material that is used in large scale yard sculptures. Veronica Terrillion’s yard, located just outside Indian River, New York is an excellent example of cement used to create large lawn art. An artistic amateur, Terrillion worked with materials she had at hand and was comfortable with (she built her own home, in addition to the sculptures in her yard). The sculptures in Terrillion’s yard depict a wide range of subjects. Figures range in size from small animals (close to life size) to a nine foot tall giraffe. Terrillion’s sculptures are representative of her life and personal values. All of her children are present as sculptures on the property, most of them in a canoe on a man- made lake. Her religious beliefs were also well represented in her sculpture garden. Terrillion was a devout Catholic and her portrayal of Jesus, Virgin Mary, and St. Francis are typical choices. The population of this area of Northern New York share similar economic status, values, and ideas. “The people of this particular location have generally followed farming for a livelihood or have worked at agricultural or lumbering related jobs in the immediate area. They have tended to have large families, to be hard working, independent, and conservative- in their religion, their politics and their social attitudes.” (Chittenden 48) Perhaps this contributed to a general acceptance of a yard that is somewhat usual for the area. “While there is no other such expanse of house and yard art anywhere nearby, and while her thirty years of dedicated work to such a creation may seem extraordinary or even excessive to some of her neighbors, almost every individual aspect of the assemblage is directly related in one way or another to the taste and values of her family , friends, and neighbors.” (Ibid 49)
Another example of yard “folk” art which uses cement is the Garden of Eden located in Lucas, Kansas. This yard art created by Samuel P. Dinsmoor consists of 29 trees, and 150 other statues, constructed out of steel and chicken wire reinforced cement. (Chinn 87) Dinsmoor used a limited color pallet (red and blue), as well as sculpting texture into the concrete, and building lights into the sculptures as accents. (Ibid)
There are two main types of sculptures in the “Garden,” religious figures and others representing his political views. Dinsmoor believed in a personal connection with God, and this is reflected through his sculptures. If the religious stories depicted represent an ancient civilization, the sculptures on the North side of the property represent modern civilization. (Chinn 89) Symbols of liberty, voting rights, labor, trusts and monopolies are all shown and were major issues during Dinsmoor’s life. (Ibid 89-91)
While the “Garden” was built on Dinsmoor’s personal property, it is clear that he intended his work to be viewed by the public. “It seems that Dinsmoor had a strong desire for people to view his work. So much so that in his will he asked that the ‘Garden’ be ‘maintained and kept for purely educational purposes.” (Ibid and Dinsmoor quoted in Ibid 92) This brings up the duality of yard art as it is viewed by both private and public spheres. For many people, yard art is constructed for personal enjoyment, but a key component in Dinsmoor’s work is that it seems to be created with the public placed firmly at the forefront of his process. His yard was used to create a conversation between himself and the public viewing his work, and he had become quite successful during his lifetime with this. After his death, the Garden of Eden became a popular roadside attraction, extending the conversation beyond Dinsmoor.