Edward James’s Surrealist Garden, or simply Las Pozas, is in the Mexican state of San Luis de Potosí, in the municipality of Xilitla, the rainiest location of the surroundings, in a place located approximately 7 hours from Mexico DF by car.
We can guide you to reach this huge estate of about 40 hectares, but once there, we only recommend you to pay the ticket (it opens 365 days a year) and enter into this world of dreams to get lost in this labyrinth in which the uncontrollable force of nature fuses with the creations of the British artist Edward James, with all his delusions and yearnings.
Edward James, a total and surrealist artist
Edward Frank Willis James was born in 1907 in a wealthy British family close to the court of Edward II. That aristocratic manner served him for two things: to have an enormous fortune during his life and to receive the best education since he was a kid. A formation that soon led him to feel attracted to the artistic world.
When he was 14, he wrote his first poems and at 19, he went to Oxford University in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Later he worked as a publisher, sculptor and above all as patron of some of the most outstanding artists of the 30s and 40s of the last century. In this way, he made contact with creators of various disciplines and origins. From painters such as Dalí, Picasso or Magritte, to designers such as Coco Chanel or the Italian Elsa Schiaparelli, photographers as Man Ray, sculptors like Henry Moore, musicians like Stravinsky or film directors like Buñuel.
With all this artistic background, Edward James identified specially with the approaches of Surrealism. Ideas that he was going to take to completely unexplored terrains, since he applied surrealist concepts to architecture. Yes. He intended to create buildings based on dreams and the irrational. Can anyone imagine it? Of course, “the craziest artist of surrealism”, as Salvador Dalí described him, was the only one who could carry out that task.
Was he able to materialize his purpose? The answer is found in the Pozas’s Garden, also known as the Edward James’s Sculpture Garden.
The Garden of Eden in a surrealist version
In 1944, E. James traveled to California and there arose the desire to create his own Garden of Eden, his private paradise. But after discovering Mexico, he decided that his dream would be fulfilled there, and that is why he inspected many possible places. Finally, he opted for Las Pozas, whose name alludes to the large number of waterfalls and natural pools situated on a estate brimming with subtropical vegetation and also coffee plants.
He acquired this vast expanse of land and began to create a gigantic orchid garden, a type of flowers both fascinating and delicate. Nevertheless, James became a true horticulturist, taking care of them with mime. But, that could not prevent that, in 1962, an unexpected frost in the region ended with its plantation.
This fiasco made him give a complete turn to his approaches, and from that moment considered the idea of creating a unique sculptural and architectural park, in which he could overturn all his aesthetic concerns, submitting to a single rule: to be carried away by his overflowing fantasy. And he dedicated to that during the following decades and until practically his death in 1984.
What awaits us in Las Pozas of Xilitla?
The first thing to say is that James never conceived his garden as something open to the public. It was for private use only, and in fact, it is said that he used to walk around it completely naked to get inspired as he walked and bathed in the different pools.
In fact, the garden has been open to the public in recent years. Especially since the Pedro and Elena Fernández Foundation exploits and preserves it. They have invested a lot of money in the cleaning, because after the artist’s death, the Pozas’s Garden began to suffer the unstoppable harassment of native vegetation.
However, this foundation has not invested as much money as the one used by Edward James in the work of his life. It is estimated that here he could spend up to $7 million, both in landscaping and the creation of its 36 structures, works between architecture and sculpture.
Here we see constructions with stairs that ascend towards the sky, doors that do not close anything, columns that only support gigantic floral capitals and endless forms full of imagination, but without an ending.
There is a building called The Cinematograph, because it develops an arch where the artist imagined a screen. There is also the Hut of Don Eduardo, built only for snakes to inhabit. Or the Bamboo Palace, where James wanted to live without walls. Not to mention the Three-Story House that Might Have Five. And all this built with shapes that remember both to the Gothic art and to the Ancient Mesopotamia, Pre-Columbian cultures or the Far East.
In short, a gigantic chimera buried in jungle vegetation and bathed by waterfalls. An artistic, creative delirium, which certainly is very difficult for us to describe because, in reality, the important thing is to live it, to feel it, to speculate about the place and its creator.
From Horse, we encourage you to travel there, to get lost by those capricious paths. Some places where we could believe that at any moment we will discover a legendary city or any other dream that comes to your mind.
If in any way during your stay in Las Pozas you dub between reality and fantasy, then Edward James achieved his purpose: he was able to create an architectural set of surreal style. Something unique!