Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 16:3 (Summer 1996). Copyright © 1996 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


John Gary Brown, a professional photographer from Lawrence, Kansas, has collected over a period of time a variety of unique photographs documenting examples of cemetery art found in the central states of Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. The author, through his photographs and to some degree his text, illustrates the rich mixture of personal efforts that stone sculptors and vernacular artists have developed in this special art form. While cemetery art is public, the photographs Brown presents, through his use of a multiplicity of artistic images, often suggest particularly private stories. Brown begins with a discussion of the "garden" cemetery, the prototype of which was Père-Lachaise in Paris (1804), which moved away from a preoccupation with the grim and condemnatory to more artistic expressions of grief and hope. Art, architecture, city planning, and gardening were all part of the design and construction of the new cemeteries.