Second Sitings, Environmental Sculpture by Howard and Mary McCoy, on View at Adkins Arboretum

There’s a gentle archway standing in the forest at Adkins Arboretum. Made of curved branches found on the forest floor, it reaches up between two living trees, forming an inviting gateway on the peaceful wooded hillside.

On view in the Adkins Arboretum forest through Sept. 15, “Forest Arch” is part of an outdoor exhibit of sculptures created by collaborating artists Howard and Mary McCoy, of Centreville, from materials they found in the forest. The artists will lead a sculpture walk during the show’s reception on Sat., June 25 from 3 to 5 p.m.

The McCoys have been creating outdoor art at Adkins Arboretum every other year since 1999. For this year’s exhibit, they decided to create sculptures using only materials they found in the forest, so when they began work on the sculptures this spring, they brought only tools, ladders and some wire.

An area of grape vines stretching up into trees along the path became a sculpture when the artists intertwined them with more vines that they had cut away from nearby trees. The resulting swirling tangle is called “Jackson’s Vines,” after the painter Jackson Pollock.

“Sometimes people will do a double-take to see if it’s natural or if it’s art,” said Howard McCoy.

“Nature recycles all the time,” said Mary McCoy. “We thought we’d do the same and give some of these branches and vines another life as art, so we titled the show Second Sitings.”

The artists picked out a pair of tall pine trees with Japanese honeysuckle, an invasive species, climbing high into their branches. To keep the vines from killing the trees, they cut them at ground level and pulled the ends from one tree toward the other. Meeting in the middle, the vines form a sculpture called “Swing.”

Howard explained, “An environmental issue was addressed, as well as making a sculpture. We saved a couple of trees from being choked by vines.”

“Clearing” is the most simple and direct of the sculptures in this show. To create it, the artists simply raked away the leaves from an 18-foot-wide circle under the trees, leaving a smooth area of rich, brown soil.

“At first you might think it’s just an empty space,” said Mary, “but then you realize that what was under those leaves is full of activity. There are the remains of leaves decomposing, becoming soil, feeding the worms and microorganisms so that new trees will grow there. It’s like exposing one piece of the ecosystem.

“We’ll keep it clear over the summer,” she explained, “but once autumn comes, it will disappear under the falling leaves. If you’re going to make art out in nature, especially if it’s about nature, it makes sense to let it change and decay naturally.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists, sponsored in part by Caroline County Council of Arts. It is on view through Sept. 15 in the Arboretum woodland, located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or for more information.

In photo: Centreville artists Mary (left) and Howard McCoy install “Jackson’s Vines” in the Adkins Arboretum forest. Second Sitings, the artists’ environmental sculpture show, is on view at the Arboretum through Sept. 15.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline 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 or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.