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Liz Christy Garden, Bowery and Houston Streets, New York City, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"

A work made of chromogenic print.

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  • A work made of chromogenic print.


June 2005


Joel Sternfeld
American, born 1944

About this artwork


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Joel Sternfeld


Liz Christy Garden, Bowery and Houston Streets, New York City, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 2005


Chromogenic print


No markings recto or verso In 1973, artist/activist Liz Christy and a group of like-minded New Yorkers calling themselves the Green Guerillas began taking over abandoned lots on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in order to convert them to gardens. Their first success came at a site on the corner of Houston and Bowery, in a vacant lot where drug users found a haven, and two homeless men had frozen to death in a cardboard box a few months earlier. Over a period of thirty years, eight-hundred-fifty gardens were successfully fought for by the Green Guerillas and others, including the legendary eco-activist Adam Purple, known for his all-purple attire worn while bicycling through Central Park, gathering horse droppings to be used as fertilizer. At least fifty-four of these gardens are now being transferred to the jurisdiction of the Parks Department, to become permanent additions to the city’s urban landscape. New York City has a history of community gardening going back to the 1930s. During the Great Depression, five thousand relief gardens were sponsored on vacant lots, for use by unemployed people. The program was cancelled in 1937 when the US Department of Agriculture initiated a food stamp program. For the next few years the public garden program lay dormant, but when World War II broke out the city announced that all available city-owned land could be cultivated as Victory Gardens. With the war’s end and the advent of frozen food, the Victory Garden program came to an end. The continued existence of the garden at Houston and Bowery is currently threatened by the construction of an adjacent upscale apartment complex. Many other community gardens have fallen victim to the forces of real estate development or have been involved in conflicts resulting from land speculation—Adam Purple’s world-renowned Garden of Eden was destroyed in 1991. Liz Christy died of cancer in 1986, at the age of thirty-nine. From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005


Image: 26.5 × 33.2 cm (10 7/16 × 13 1/8 in.); Paper: 27.9 × 35.5 cm (11 × 14 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall

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