A new exhibition has opened at the Morton Arboretum featuring a collection of brand-new towering arbor-inspired sculptures. Titled “Of the Earth“, the exhibition features five exclusive new works from Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska and replaces those on display for Human + Nature.
Having unveiled five breathtaking sculptures by renowned multi-disciplinary South African artist Daniel Popper back in May 2021, Human+Nature was already the largest-ever exhibition of Popper’s work before it then added three additional sculptures in June of 2022.
The adored exhibition then officially closed at the end of February paving the way for “Of the Earth” which opened on May 26 similarly showcasing the largest exhibition of artist Olga Ziemska’s work to date.
As with Human + Nature, the sculptures on show for “Of the Earth” have been created exclusively for Arboretum visitors and placed in various locations across its 1,700 acres leading guests to areas they may not have explored before.
“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.
“The experience of art paired with nature throughout the Arboretum has been very appealing to both frequent visitors and those coming for the very first time. We are continuing this approach of one-of-a-kind exhibitions aligned with the Arboretum’s mission that really motivates people to get outdoors among trees and explore nature.”
According to an official Morton Arboretum release, Ziemska’s sculptures have been predominantly created from reclaimed tree branches and other natural materials gathered from various locations throughout the Arboretum’s grounds.
“I use art as a tool to better understand the things we often overlook,” said Ziemska, whose surname in Polish means “of the earth”. “Humans have a complex relationship with the natural world, but there is no separation between people and nature.”
The exhibition explores the artist’s expression and philosophy that, she says, “We are nature.” Her aim is to remind people that “everything in life is derived from the same basic elements that form everything in nature, including ourselves. There is no separation.”
Her surname in Polish, ‘Ziemska’ means “of the earth” and the artist said that some of the Arboretum’s tree-filled landscapes inspired her because they reminded her of the landscapes of Poland, where she has previously lived and regularly visits her family.
Ranging from 5 feet to 14 feet tall, the sculptures contain steel and glass-fiber materials as well as reinforced concrete where necessary so that they are able to withstand the Midwest’s weather variations over the next two years.
The five large-scale sculptures are named “Strata”, “Oculus”, “Ona”, “Hear: With an ear to the ground” and “Stillness in Motion: The Matka series”.
The latter of these, “Stillness in Motion: The Matka series”, (matka means “mother” in Polish) is a 6-foot-tall female figure composed mostly of willow tree branches. Located outside the Arboretum’s Visitor Center it is the newest in the artist’s renowned Matka series and is Of the Earth’s signature piece.
“Ona”, a 14-foot-tall piece depicting a woman with wind-swept tree branch hair, is the sole sculpture situated on the Arboretum’s West Side while Oculus comprises two 10-foot-tall human head profiles and “Hear: With an ear to the ground” is a 5-foot-tall horizontal human situated with Meadow Lake as its backdrop.
Strate, slightly different from the rest, is a 45-foot-long reclining female figure emerging from the ground at the base of a hill in the Crabapple Collection.
Opened on May 26, 2023, the exhibition will run through spring 2025 and is free with advance purchase of daytime admission.
More information can be found at mortonarb.org.
[Featured image by Olga Ziemska courtesy of Morton Arboretum]