Minneapolis artist uses gourds from grandma's backyard to create garden of art

For his first solo art show, Shea Maze is using plants to express himself.

In the process, he is revealing his roots, both artistic and familial.

"It was a lot. It was emotional. It was vulnerable. It's outside of the box of what I usually work with. So it tested me," Maze told FOX 9.

Maze says growing up he spent a lot of time in his grandmother's backyard in South Minneapolis, which was overgrown with gourds hanging from the vines.

His grandmother dried, cured and gave them out as gifts. 

When Maze got into the visual arts and found a stockpile of gourds in his grandmother's garage, he started working them as a hobby.

"They are like wood. They're softer, though, so they sand quicker. They hold shape. They're structurally sound, but they're also unpredictable. I like that about gourds," said Maze.

When he got a residency at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum in Minneapolis, Maze created a dozen works of art out of more than 100 gourds from his grandmother's garden.

The pieces range from elaborate sculptures to decorative vases to even gourd lights. His creative ideas bearing fruit in unexpected ways.

"It's all just a deconstruction of the gourd inside and out. And the colors you see are used with natural pigments. They come from my grandmother's old dye pots, plants that came from the garden, all kinds of stuff," said Maze.

Maze says the show is centered around the word "Sankofa" from a tribe in Ghana, which encourages learning from the past to inform the future.

Maze says he did just that to create his garden of art and he hopes it plants the seed for others to do the same.

"It's important to kind of go back and get stuff and remember who we are, you know, because we move really fast nowadays," said Maze