Outdoor Sculpture Invitational On View At Adkins Arboretum

All along Adkins Arboretum’s paths this summer, artwork is suspended in the trees, submerged in the creek’s flowing waters and nestled in hollows under leafy branches. Nine artists came from as far away as South Dakota to create site-specific sculptures in the Arboretum forest. Curated by Centreville artists Howard and Mary McCoy, Artists in Dialogue with Landscape is on view through September 12. The public is invited to a reception on Saturday, June 21 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Walking the wooded paths, visitors will discover the 15 artworks the artists created on site to make a “dialogue” with this landscape. Some of them used materials found in the forest. “Quiet Power,” by Greg Blair of AberdeenSD, is like a flower or pod opening to the light. Made of broken sticks from the forest floor, it looks so natural that it seems to have grown there. Likewise, seven nests intricately woven from bristling wire by Elizabeth McCue of YardleyPA, are totally at home as they perch in the trees of the Arboretum’s pine forest.

The many multiple-trunked trees in the forest inspired a quiet sculpture by Sheila Rotner of Sag Harbor,NY. These trees sprouted from stumps left long ago by logging. Impressed by the power of nature to keep on living, Rotner suspended a remarkable heart-shaped piece of burled wood in a cage of branches between the three trunks of an oak, entitling the sculpture “Tree Heart.”

The forces of moving water fascinate Silver Spring artist Tazuko Ichikawa. Stones penned in a wooden frame hold steady in the flow of the creek, ripples made of nearly concentric rings of reed spread on sand deposited by a spring flood, and an armload of branches pouring like a strong wave through an unexpected black wooden square under the trees all evoke the movement of water, even though two of the three are quite dry.

Watery reflections make Baltimore artist Katherine Kavanaugh’s two webs of faceted glass beads the show’s most magical work. Strung in webs just over the creek, they are like stars hovering in the air and reflecting in the water, sometimes catching sunlight, sometimes disappearing into shadow.

There is also a certain magic in the gemlike hues of Melissa Burley’s sculpture, “Melt.” But it’s a shock to realize that the sapphire blue glinting through the green leaves and reflecting in the creek comes from hundreds of plastic water bottles. Burley, who lives in LaurelMD, collected bottles discarded by her family and friends over a three-month period. After filling each with water tinted blue, she dangled them over the creek and piled more on either side. The fresh color and bright sparkle of the plastic strangely contradict the fact that they are literally trash. They give the visitor second thoughts about water issues, recycling and even the nature of beauty. 

Environmental concern and humor join forces again in a trio of unusual sweaters swaddling tree trunks. Here is a chance to really get friendly with the forest. Fiber artist Sara Christensen Blair of Aberdeen,SD, hand-crocheted “Tree Huggers” with long arms connecting double torsos, one for the tree to “wear” and one for a visitor to slip on, automatically joining the two in a warm bear hug.

More interactive art is to be found further on. Beth Ann Morrison of Jersey City, NJ, has woven two “meditation pods” from branches and colored yarn where a visitor can sit quietly, listening to the creek and observing plants, birds and insects. Chestertown sculptor Marilee Schumann had a similar but grander idea when she made her oversized “Throne for Contemplating the Majesty of the Forest.” Standing on the ridge above Blockston Branch, it invites the visitor to sit like a king, taking in the leafy panorama provided by nature.

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through September 12 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 orinfo@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek inCaroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. Through its Campaign to Build a Green Legacy, the Arboretum will build a new LEED-certified Arboretum Center and entranceway to broaden educational offerings and research initiatives promoting best practices in conservation and land stewardship. For additional information about Arboretum programs, visit www.adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.