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Press Release: The Morton Arboretum Human+Nature exhibition to open May 28, 2021

Please note: Human+Nature has concluded. The large-scale sculpture exhibition, Of the Earth, opened May 26, 2023.

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Art installation amplifies importance of tree museum’s mission

LISLE, Illinois (May 20, 2021)—Five large-scale sculptures now enhance the landscapes at The Morton Arboretum as its newest outdoor art exhibition, Human+Nature, prepares to open May 28.

Pronounced “human nature,” it is the first major U.S. exhibition by renowned South African artist Daniel Popper, and his largest to date anywhere in the world. The five 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures created exclusively for the Arboretum will remain in their various locations across the 1,700-acre Arboretum for at least one year. Access to the exhibition will be included free with timed-entry admission to the Arboretum.

“After much anticipation, we are looking forward to welcoming guests to experience these one-of-a-kind works of art that can’t be seen anywhere else,” said Preston Bautista, Ph.D., vice president of learning and engagement. “These beautiful sculptures will enhance the Arboretum guest experience and inspire people to connect with trees in a different way.”

Built to create a sense of awe and wonder, the nature-inspired sculptures reflect how trees are at the heart of the Arboretum’s mission, work, and vision for the future, Bautista explained. Made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass and steel, each sculpture weighs several metric tons. The exhibition includes:

  • Hallow, a 26-foot tall figure that welcomes Arboretum guests along Meadow Lake near the Visitor Center. (East Side)
  • UMI, a 20.5-foot tall majestic maternal figure surrounded by magnolia trees. (East Side)
    Sentient, an 18-foot tall figure featuring diverse human facial traits interwoven with root structures that borders the Japan Collection along the Loop 1 Trail. (East Side)
  • Heartwood, a 15.5-foot tall bisected face in the Europe Collection that evokes the interconnectedness of humans and trees. (West Side)
  • Basilica, 37-foot long open hands that reach out to guests from mature oak trees in Daffodil Glade. (West Side)

“Each sculpture has a story behind it, 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,” Popper said. “I want people to come here and ask questions of themselves about their relationship with nature.”

He described working at The Morton Arboretum as a privilege. “As an artist, I’ve always been interested in trees,” he explained, adding, “We need to really acknowledge the importance of trees and what they give the planet, and how much more we can give to trees.”

Daniel Popper is a multidisciplinary Cape Town, South Africa, artist known globally for his larger-than-life sculptures and spectacular public art installations. He is most acclaimed for his massive 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.

International Paper is sponsor of the Hallow sculpture by Meadow Lake and DuPage Medical Group is sponsor of UMI, in the Magnolia Collection.