Exhibitions

Human+Nature

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The Morton Arboretum’s outdoor art exhibition, Human+Nature (pronounced: Human Nature), inspires awe and wonder as it connects people and trees.

Internationally renowned artist Daniel Popper created five 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures exclusively for the Arboretum featured in various locations across its 1,700 acres, leading guests to areas they may not have explored before. It is his largest exhibition to date anywhere in the world.

On the East Side, a short walk from the Visitor Center, guests are able to step within a huge female figure, as if into the heart of nature. Continuing along a less than mile-long walk, they encounter a majestic maternal figure as tall as a tree, and a sculpture of diverse human facial traits interwoven with root structures. On the West Side, two hands joined by intertwining roots extend near a grove of old oaks, and a towering face evokes the interconnectedness of humans and trees. Made of concrete, fiberglass, and steel, each sculpture weighs several metric tons. The largest ground footprint is 28 feet wide and 37 feet long.

Trees have the power to refresh and restore people, to connect them to the natural world. People rely on trees for clean air to breathe, shade to cool, and beauty that can bring joy and relaxation, among many other benefits. In turn, trees need people to care for them if they are to thrive and share their benefits, especially in a changing climate. Guests are invited to reimagine their relationships with trees as they explore these expressive large-scale artworks while also enjoying the outdoors and the trees of The Morton Arboretum.

Human+Nature is included with timed-entry admission to the Arboretum. The exhibition is planned to run through March 2023.

Internationally renowned artist Daniel Popper created five 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures exclusively for the Arboretum featured in various locations across its 1,700 acres, leading guests to areas they may not have explored before. It is his largest exhibition to date anywhere in the world.

Two new large-scale sculptures will be added in May 2022, including one being created to commemorate the Arboretum’s Centennial year.

Thank you to International Paper (sponsor of the Hallow sculpture by Meadow Lake) and Duly Health and Care (sponsor of UMI in the Magnolia Collection).

Daniel Popper

Daniel Popper is a multidisciplinary artist known globally for his larger-than-life sculptures. From Cape Town, South Africa, he is most acclaimed for his massive and spectacular public art installations, including the memorial sculpture for the Nelson Mandela School of Science and Technology in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and sculptures for popular events such as the Boom Festival in Portugal and Rainbow Serpent Festival in Australia.

The Creative Process Behind Human+Nature

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the installation of the new exhibition in the video Behind the Build of Human+Nature. Hear artist Daniel Popper’s insights into how the exhibition was created as he answers most-asked questions about his process. Then plan a visit to see Human+Natureset in the beautiful tree-filled landscapes at the Arboretum.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Three sculptures are located in separate areas on the East Side, viewable within just over a one-mile walk from the Visitor Center. Two sculptures on the West Side are in separate locations, each about a quarter of a mile from the Thornhill Education Center. All of the sculptures will be within a short walk from a parking lot. See the maps for locations, parking, and trail guides.

  • (East Side)

    Hallow (26 feet tall): Meadow Lake/Frost Hill Path (closest parking P1 and P2). Trees and nature are the heart of The Morton Arboretum’s mission, work, and vision for the future.

    UMI (20.5 feet tall): Magnolia Collection (closest parking P5). An arboretum is a place where trees are nurtured—young trees, mature trees, rare and threatened species from local ecosystems, and from around the world.

    Sentient (18 feet tall): Loop 1 trail in the Japan Collection (closest parking P17 and P18).
    Open your senses as you explore the Arboretum’s woodlands, prairies, lakes, and rivers. There is something new waiting to be discovered each time we step into nature.

    (West Side)

    Heartwood (15.5 feet tall): Europe Collection (closest parking P19 and P20). Humans are part of nature and nature is a part of us. We enjoy the benefits of trees and trees need our care to survive and thrive.

    Basilica (28 feet from side to side): Near Daffodil Glade (closest parking P22).
    Conservation and restoration are the work of many hands. The Arboretum’s work depends on many people, both here and around the world.

  • The heartwood includes the oldest annual growth rings that make up the layers in the center of a tree. While the name makes people think it is the most important part of the tree, it really refers to its position in the tree.

    Although the tissue in the heartwood is dead, it is important for structural support and carbon storage. As long as it is protected from the elements by the other layers of the tree, it will not decay.

  • The rings on the north side of the sculpture are representative of a tree’s heartwood, the inner layers of rings at the center of a tree. The other side is a human fingerprint. The sculpture represents how humans are part of nature and nature is part of us.

  • “Umi” is derived from an Arabic word meaning “mother” or “my mother.”

  • The names were chosen by the artist, Daniel Popper.

  • The artist, Daniel Popper, encourages guests to draw their own meaning from each sculpture. They are intended to help people find their connections with trees and nature.

  • The exhibition is included with member passes and general admission timed-entry tickets to the Arboretum.

  • Hallow, at Meadow Lake, is fully accessible by wheelchair. Some of the sculptures are visible from Arboretum roads or are a short distance via chipped trail from parking areas.

  • Some of the sculptures feature Virginia Creepers. No additional vegetation will be added to the sculptures. (Learn more about Virginia Creepers).

  • The sculptures are constructed of glass-reinforced concrete, fiberglass and steel. They each weigh several metric tons. They are painted to look like wood.

    Tallest: 26 feet high
    Largest footprint: 28 feet wide and 37 feet long

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