Human + Nature’s two-year run at the Morton Arboretum will come to a close next week. After first unveiling five breathtaking sculptures by renowned multi-disciplinary South African artist Daniel Popper in May 2021, the exhibition was then extended through to February 2023 and added three additional sculptures designed by Popper in June of last year.
The largest-ever exhibition of Popper’s work, it was one of the arboretum’s most popular exhibits to date. The towering, arbor-inspired sculptures were crafted exclusively for the Morton Arboretum and placed in various locations across its 1,700 acres leading guests to areas they may not have explored before.
“Built to create a sense of awe and wonder, the nature-inspired sculptures reflect how trees are at the heart of the Arboretum’s mission, work, and vision for the future” read the Morton Arboretum press release. “Made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass, and steel, each sculpture weighs several metric tons.”
On Tuesday, February 28th, the beloved sculptures will finally leave Chicago to make way for the exciting new “Of the Earth” exhibition by Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska opening at the arboretum this May.
Human + Nature Sculptures
Here is a breakdown of all the sculptures that are a part of the Human+Nature exhibition.
Hallow: A 26-foot tall figure that welcomes Arboretum guests along Meadow Lake near the Visitor Center on the East Side of the Morton Arboretum.
“The idea that in the process of deep self-expression, there can be immense growth and healing,” said Daniel Popper. “When we express ourselves fully we are closest to nature. In the same way, nature expresses itself spectacularly throughout the seasons.”
Sentient, an 18-foot tall figure featuring diverse human facial traits interwoven with root structures that borders the Japan Collection along the Loop 1 Trail on the East Side of the Morton Arboretum.
“This piece for me speaks to a return to stillness,” said Daniel Popper. “For me being and connecting with Nature and meditation are essential in finding my center in the chaos. And the awareness that there is no separation between us and nature.”
Heartwood, a 15.5-foot tall bisected face that evokes the interconnectedness of humans and trees. It is located in the Europe Collection on the West Side of the Morton Arboretum.
“The Heartwood is the dense inner collection of rings that lie in the center of a tree trunk,” said Daniel Popper, “the spine or central pillar of the tree, is mechanically stong, and resistant to decay. Its rings allude to the tree’s unique history and identity.”
“When walking through this figure. Contemplate your history, your lineage your identity all the way back to nature. Enduring, resilient and complex, with a courageous story to tell.”
UMI: A 20.5-foot tall majestic maternal figure surrounded by magnolia trees found on the East Side of the Morton Arboretum.”UMI” means “life” in Swahili and “mother” in Arabic.
UMI was made from steel & GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete).
Basilica, 37-foot long open hands that reach out to guests from mature oak trees in Daffodil Glade on the West Side of the Arboretum.
“A Basilica in Ancient Greece was a public place of gathering and later became a public place of worship,” said Daniel Popper, “I set out to create a gathering space. A space to be held by nature. The hands seem to be welcoming us in while at the same time reaching out for us. The roots resemble arteries and veins both being complex nutrient systems transferring energy.”
“Viewers entering the hands and interacting with the space are engaged with the concept of the inner and the outer landscapes within which we live, and the connections between them. To look for diversity, interconnectedness and flows of nourishment in the complex system of which we call life.”
Mycelia (pronounced mai-seh-lee-uh), at just over 12-feet tall, the stark-white, fungi-inspired sculpture situated in a secluded wooded area near Lake Marmo on the West Side, highlights what the artist calls the “neurological network of nature.”
The sculpture is made of concrete, fiberglass, and steel, and is named for the rootlike structure of fungus generally found underground.
Ephemera, a 12-foot-tall sculpture adorning Bulb Meadow near the Maple Collection on the East Side, calls attention to nature’s sound with gramophone-like daffodil ears inviting guests to listen and observe the fleeting beauty of each passing season.
The sculpture is made of concrete, fiberglass, and steel.
Ginkgo, an 8-foot-tall sculpture in Arbor Court near the Visitor Center, is inspired by Arboretum founder Joy Morton’s observation that “the Arboretum is a ginkgo, and a ginkgo it shall remain.”
As one of Morton’s favorite trees, the ginkgo is the last living species of an order that emerged more than 290 million years ago, a fitting reference to the Arboretum as it enters its second century.
The sculpture is made of steel and cast aluminum with 100 ginkgo leaves framing a pensive face to represent 100 years since the Arboretum’s founding.
Of the Earth exhibition
Titled “Of the Earth“, the new exhibition will feature five exclusive new works from Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska which will reside at the arboretum from May 26, 2023, through spring 2025.
Like Human + Nature, the incoming sculptures will be created exclusively for Arboretum visitors. It will also be the largest exhibition of Olga Ziemska’s work to date as it was for her predecessor Daniel Popper.
“Olga will bring a fresh and evocative new display to The Morton Arboretum’s art exhibition program, which has enhanced the guest experience among our tree collections,” said the Arboretum’s vice president of learning and engagement, Preston Bautista.
According to the Morton Arboretum, Ziemska’s sculptures will be created from reclaimed tree branches and other natural materials gathered from various locations throughout the Arboretum’s grounds.
More information can be found at mortonarb.org.
[Featured image courtesy of the Morton Arboretum ]