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The Art of JAMA
June 11, 2014

Maudell Sleet’s Magic Garden: Romare Bearden

JAMA. 2014;311(22):2256-2257. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279544

This lush, vegetal collage by the American artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988) commemorates a generous neighbor with a green thumb. As a child Bearden spent summers with his grandparents in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the pleasant memory of the city’s backyard gardens lingered on his mind. Although Bearden lived most of his life in the northern United States, he said he never left Charlotte, except physically. In his seventh decade he called to mind the warm days of his youth and a woman down the street who shared the produce of her garden with friends. He remembered her name—Maudell Sleet—and when he thought of her planting beds he could still smell the flowers and taste the blackberries. In Maudell Sleet’s Magic Garden, Ms Sleet wears a big hat to shade herself from the evening sun. She kneels into the vegetation, twisting edibles off their stems and laying them gently in her basket. Amid the explosion of blooms, her cool blue dress is a resting place for the eye.