Discover sculpture in the woods at Adkins Arboretum
Adkins Arboretum is a true gem, hidden in the thick of Delmarva, near Ridgely. As a botanical garden and arboretum lover, you’d think I’d visit it a lot. I’ve been there a couple of times for art openings, but never really walked the grounds – until Sunday, when I went to meet Mary and Howard McCoy, environmental artists.
Howard and Mary have been producing environmental art for many years, and for the past 6, have curated an invitational sculpture show on the Arboretum grounds. I was lucky enough to be invited to walk with them and see some of the new pieces that were being installed for the 2012 outdoor sculpture show opening on June 1st. Here is the piece that I wrote about the show for the Talbot Spy.
Walking through Adkins Arboretum with environmental artists Mary and Howard McCoy causes one to look at nature in a different way. Discovering art placed on hills, in creeks, the woods and meadows is delightful – one wonders about the artist’s message and why a particular location was chosen. After a while, nature herself is viewed through a different lens – trees become design elements inside the landscape, and vines and nests blur into a visual collage. Nature, as an artist, offers sculpture everywhere. Even the sounds become part of a larger experience, when tuned into nature as art.
Environmental art is about place. The breeze was cool and the woods dark this weekend, when three of the seven invited sculptors arrived at the Arboretum to begin installing their environmental art at the 6th annual Outdoor Sculpture Invitational, titled Artists in Dialogue With Landscape.
In selecting the site for their pieces, each artist offers a conversation with the place, the land. Some of the pieces intersect as if woven into the place. Others stand out in sharp juxtaposition, calling attention with a loud statement, even lights. Some of the statements are evident, some mysterious.
Pennsylvanian Elizabeth McCue’s piece titled “No Fracking” is hidden off in the woods. The path turns, and a large orange X is seen on the ground amidst the trees. Layers of painted chicken wire surrounding bottles clearly mark a spot. One senses danger. Situated on a hillside beside a creek, the piece reminds the viewer that subtle changes and dangers can be invisible, draining underground to the water.
At the Arboretum’s entry, woven flags hang over the bridge crossing the thick marsh, and offer squares of color – greens, yellows, reds. Suggesting the seasonal changes, artist Beth Whitely wondered if leaves have totems, what they might look like, and what they might say, supporting and nurturing the leaves of the plants as they grow in spring, through maturity, and pass on as decayed organic matter, regenerating the next season’s growth. The totems appear almost as prayer flags, swaying with the breeze.
In the meadow, artist Breon Gilleran of Baltimore placed tall conical pieces on stands in the tall grasses. With holes in the center, allowing a view through, the pieces almost seem as large ears, or windows, reducing the view to a small subset of what’s seen naturally in the broad landscape. Peeking through, a very different, simpler image arises. Her work reduces the surrounding meadow to a narrow view.
Cones of brightly colored garden hose emerge from the woods in Beth Ann Morrison’s piece, poking up and unfolding like whirlwinds of energy, popping up from the surrounding skunk cabbage knoll. And Laurel artist Melissa Burley placed “Trapped” – blue glass bottles entrapped by steel arches in a creek. With solar lights, the piece is meant to comment on the swirling trash piles in the Pacific Ocean, trapping our garbage in an unending environmental circle of human’s effect on our globe.
In a surprising and lovely piece in the woods, artist Linda Bills knitted strips of tyvek, and wrapped them around branches, placed strategically in a thicket. Appearing almost like wasp or bird nests, the knitted tyvek combines a natural look with a human material. It’s easy to imagine these structures as something created by insects. How can something so manmade seem so natural?
Howard and Mary McCoy curated this exhibition, choosing the seven artists for the show. Walking through the woods with them is a Zen experience – their calm and steady demeanor and obvious love for this land were palpable. Last year, the McCoys created a dozen pieces in the Arboretum – all made of natural materials. Some of them have returned to the earth, through decay or due to weather events. A number of them remain, even more intertwined with the landscape as fresh growth winds its way through the sticks and vines that the McCoys turned into art last summer.
After a while, touring with the McCoys and discovering the art interspersed throughout the Arboretum, our eyes became trained to spot art in the landscape. We looked at nature differently by the end of the walk, and even the natural woods settings appeared more artful.
The show opens on June 1st and continues till September 15th, with an opening reception on June 23rd, from 3 – 5 pm.
Participating artists are: Linda Bills - Baltimore, MD, Melissa Burley – Laurel, MD, Breon Gilleran - Baltimore, MD, Elizabeth McCue – Yardley, PA, Beth Ann Morrison – Jersey City, NJ, Marcia Wolfson Ray – Baltimore, MD, and Elizabeth Whiteley – Washington, DC.
Adkins Arboretum – 12610 Eveland Rd., Ridgely, MD 21660