Giselle & Minnie

This is our first road trip using a GPS. Affectionately named Giselle, the non-anxious, disembodied female presence who guides us from point to point, has generally been a good companion. To say the least, she has a mind of her own. Some of her directions don’t always seem the most obvious or straightforward, but we’ve learned to trust her. When we’ve taken things into our own hands, she has been exceedingly patient in recalculating another route.

Giselle never raises her voice although at times there is an urgency to her repeated instructions when we need to respond to her directions right away. And she is ever so calm, when we’ve missed a turn, about inviting us to make a U turn at our earliest convenience when it is safe to do so. So thoughtful. Our biggest learning curve has been trying to figure out exactly what Giselle means when she says take a “slight” left or right turn.

Because we have chosen to travel secondary roads, stay in out of the way communities, and partake of the favorite local cuisine, Giselle has been invaluable in directing us to restaurants that look like abandon buildings, but have terrific food. Mind you, she’s taken us a bit out of our way on occasion to get us there, but we would definitely have driven past our destination if left to our first aesthetic druthers.

One of our favorite out of the way destinations was Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, NC. Without the help of Giselle, we had inadvertently walked the gardens backwards. As a result, we unexpectedly came upon my favorite part of the garden toward the end of our visit. Designed by Wilmington artist Virginia Wright-Frierson, and completed with the help of local volunteers and schoolchildren, the Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden contains the Bottle House, a memorial installation dedicated in honor of the visionary folk artist who was the gatekeeper at Airlie Gardens for twenty-five years from 1949 to 1974. The bottle house construction is a 16-foot high roofless chapel built out of bottles of various sizes, shapes, and color and arranged to recreate images and symbols found in the work of Minnie Evans.

As the story goes, one night Minnie had a dream where God told her to paint! Her son recounted that she burst from her room yelling and screaming about the vision she’d had. Not wanting to ignore or displease God, self-taught African-American Minnie first began creating her vivid images with crayons and colored pencils, often while sitting in the little wooden gatehouse of Airlie Gardens. Later switching to using oil paints as well, Evans became known for her works depicting a world based on her brightly colored dreams and visions.  Evans died in 1987 at the age of 95 and is now considered one of America’s most important visionary artists. Her work has been shown internationally, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and is also in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

I’m especially grateful that Giselle pointed us in the right direction to see this mad-cap memorial to an amazingly inspired original artist. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful for us to have enjoyed this together with our GPS guide Giselle? But, alas, she preferred to wait patiently in the car.

Has someone ever directed you to an unexpected delight? If so, what was it and what was so delightful about it? How would you describe that experience if the person had remained behind in the car? If you were to create a crayon or colored pencil “painting” of that experience, what would it look like?

Looking forward to your unexpected delights.



5 comments to Giselle & Minnie

  • Maureen HOutz

    I know the Airlie Gardens.. my brother lives in Wilmington. I have been to the bottle house. Enjoy the rest of your journey.

  • Amy Tuttle

    I love this story! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  • I really love Minnie’s story – thanks for sharing it!


    Sounds like you have been having a wonderful trip. Minnie Evans must have been a great person. Using a GPS must be fun. Wish we had one when we traveled the back roads instead of the superslabs, but I was a good navigator.

  • Barbara Hayes

    Yes. I was on a retreat with my church choir. The purpose of the retreat was to begin to prepare our Christmas music. It was September and we were in a lovely rental home in Lake Arrowhead, CA. The first evening, I had gone to bed, but a bunch of members in a nearby room were playing pool. They encouraged me to get out of bed and join them. I did not know how to play. “We’ll teach you!” And they did. Today, if I have the availability of a table and the gift of time, I will play until my legs can no longer stand. I’m not exceptionally good, but I love the game. Who’d a-thunk?

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