Daniel Popper, a South African artist, debuted his first major exhibition in the United States—and his largest ever—at The Morton Arboretum in Illinois. Popper’s five large-scale sculptures invade the 1,700-acre arboretum in Human+Nature, a huge show. The sculptures, which range in height from 15 to 26 feet, “inspire awe as they connect humans and trees.”
Popper, famed for his spectacular public art pieces, did not hold back when it came to drawing inspiration from nature. The sculptures inspired by nature speak to the Arboretum’s objective of connecting visitors with trees. Each sculpture, made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass, and steel, is colossal while striking a strong emotional chord.
UMI, for example, is a maternal figure softly caressing her baby bulge. In fact, the name UMI comes from an Arabic term that means “mother” or “my mother.” The 20.5-foot-tall figure looks to be constructed of entwined branches and is locked in an intimate moment contemplating her upcoming motherhood.
Heartwood is yet another triumph. A woman’s face is split in two here, while leaves flutter across her torso. People are urged to go through the center, which features a human fingerprint on one side and a tree’s heartwood on the other. A tree’s heartwood contains the oldest yearly growth rings. The artwork as a whole depicts the interdependence of people and plants.
“Each sculpture has a story behind it,” Popper said, “but I like to leave the questions about each piece a little bit open, so people can come and bring their own ideas to it.” “I’d like folks to come here and ask themselves questions about their relationship with nature.”
Working at The Morton Arboretum was hailed as a privilege by him. “As an artist, I’ve always been fascinated by trees,” he said. “We need to recognize the importance of trees and what they provide to the earth, as well as how much more we can contribute to trees.”
Daniel Popper, a South African artist, debuted his first major exhibition in the United States at The Morton Arboretum.
The Arboretum’s 1,700 acres are home to five large-scale artworks.
The sculptures speak to the interconnectedness between humans and trees.
The exhibition, Human+Nature, is scheduled to run for at least one year.