On a bayouside property just south of New Orleans is Kenny Hill’s Sculpture Garden. It is filled with over 100 sculptures made by Kenny Hill, mostly made out of concrete and wire mesh. In January 2000, Hill abandoned the property, leaving behind his sculptures and the sense of mystery surrounding them.
Though little is known about the reclusive Kenny Hill himself, the garden of sculptures he left behind still remains a mysterious subject in the art world today. During the mid-90s, Hill turned his own home and garden into an ostensible sanctuary for his own religious beliefs, filling the cramped area with over 100 concrete sculptures of Biblical references. These pieces vary widely, although they are most notably accompanied by depictions of angels seemingly watching over and guiding the figures below. Walking through this garden is considered by some to be a spiritual experience itself.
Walking through Kenny Hill’s Sculpture Garden, it is clear the pieces elicit a sense of personal pain, specific to the artist. Hill places himself in many of the scenes around the property, most prominently in a 45-foot tall lighthouse composed of 7,000 bricks. In one scene, he is shown carrying Christ’s cross while blood pours out of his aching heart. In another, he depicts his struggle with good and evil by painting his face half black and half white.
Hill’s life, though shrouded in mystery, also reveals another layer of intrigue. Working unassumingly as a bricklayer during the construction of these pieces, Hill had seemingly no interest in a public persona. His pieces were for his own personal expression only, and at the very most to neighbors, a didactic “story of salvation.” He was very private about his work; even going so far as to set fire to a piece that was publicized in a local newspaper. Finally, due to a supposed disagreement with his landowner, accompanied by an assumed loss of faith, Hill left behind his cherished pieces and land. Before leaving, he kicked the head off of a figure of Jesus and painted a wooden sign that reads “HELL IS HERE, WELCOME.”
The land was bought by Nicholls State University and salvaged by the Kohler foundation in 2002. The Chauvin Sculpture Garden and Nicholls State University Art Studio is near Chauvin in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. It is about 90 minutes south of New Orleans.