A Day Away: Nature takes on new meaning at Illinois’ Morton Arboretum in Lisle

LISLE, Illinois – Walking in a cold winter breeze in a local park takes on new meaning at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. Multidisciplinary artist Daniel Popper’s “Human+Nature” exhibition features five sculptures connecting people and the world around them.

This magnificent mother figure, titled “UMI”, stands as tall as the trees surrounding her at Morton Arboretum. It is one of five sculptures by Daniel Popper in his “Human+Nature” exhibit on view through March 2023 at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, near Chicago. (Courtesy of Morton Arboretum)

With conversations beginning in 2018 to bring the exhibit to the local arboretum, Popper found himself fascinated by the Illinois location. The Morton Arboretum spans Illinois Route 53 (IL 53) in Lisle. Visitors can drive through the park or park their car and enjoy a scenic drive along the trails.

Across 1,700 acres of the park, five sculptures, ranging from 15 to 26 feet tall, sit among the pathways, lightly dusted with the still January snow. The sculptures, made of concrete, fiberglass and steel, weigh several metric tons, some reaching higher than the trees they surround. Popper painted the carvings to look like wood. The exhibition is its largest to date, including all international pieces.

If you are going to

What: Sculptures “Man+Nature”

Or: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, Illinois; 3 hours, 22 minutes east of Cedar Rapids and 3 hours east of Iowa City, via I-80 and I-88

When: Grounds open daily from 7 a.m. to sunset, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. reserved for members of the arboretum; Visitor Center open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission: By timed entrance tickets; $16 adults, $14 65 and over, $11 2 to 17, free under 2; discount on Wednesday; mortonarb.org/visit-the-arboretum

Characteristics: Award-winning Kindergarten, Maze Garden and 26 km of hiking trails, plus exhibits, activities, events and classes for all ages

Details: mortonarb.org

The sculptures remain in specific places, the nature that surrounds them weighing on the specificity of the history of each work. Each sculpture is estimated at around $80,000 to $100,000.

Follow the blue signs in the ‘Human+Nature’ exhibit for places to park and indicators to find them. A map of the park is also available at the ticket office. The exhibit is included with timed entry to the arboretum.

Three of these sculptures are on the east side of the arboretum, all within walking distance of each other or a short drive. Visitors are allowed to touch the sculptures, and many onlookers stand still in silence, impressed by the mass of the sculptures and the stories they tell.

Tree-tall sculptures

“Hallow”, a huge female figure, emerges near Meadow Lake and Frost Hill Trail, with nearby parking at parking lots 1 and 2. “Hallow” is sponsored by Arboretum supporter International Paper.

“UMI”, a mother figure, is as tall as the trees that surround the sculpture. “UMI” is derived from the Arabic word meaning “mother” or “my mother”. The figurine is located near the Magnolia Collection, with gated parking at parking lot 5. “UMI” is sponsored by Arboretum supporter Duly Health and Care.

The third stop among the sculptures on the east side is “Sentient”, a diverse sculpture of human facial features interwoven with root structures. “Sentient” is near Loop 1 and the Japan Collection, slightly set back in the woods, but accessible via a woodchip trail just off the road. The nearest car park is in car parks 17 and 18.

A five-minute drive or short hike to the west side of the arboretum will reveal the two remaining sculptures, “Heartwood” and “Basilica.”

“Heartwood”, an imposing face divided in two, is part of the Europe collection. The name Heartwood derives from the name of the oldest annual growth rings that make up the layers in the center of a tree. The sculpture is set back slightly in the woods with trail access required, but is visible from the road as you pass. The closest parking lot to Heartwood is lots 19 and 20.

The last sculpture on the west side is “Basilica”, two hands joined by intertwined roots stretched out near old oak trees. “Basilica” is located in Four Oaks near Daffodil Glade in the Arboretum. The closest car park is car park 22.

centenary year

Preston Bautista, the arboretum’s vice president of learning and engagement, said the facility hopes to continue to feature more artwork. He encourages visitors to come and see all the arboretum has to offer by visiting the “Human+Nature” exhibit during the centennial year celebrations.

“There are a lot of other things going on, including a visitor center exhibit, a library exhibit, and several other programs,” he noted.

The facility kicked off its year-long centennial celebration on Founder’s Day, December 14, 2021, and the festivities will continue through 2022. In April, the arboretum will observe a centennial tree planting initiative from 1,000 trees in the Seven Counties area of ​​Chicago. April also marks the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day.

the centenary link on the institution’s website highlights the “significant impact of the arboretum for trees and people – studying, planting and protecting trees; educate people; and welcoming millions of guests to its collections of living trees and plants and its magnificent landscapes.

“Human+Nature” captures this spirit.

Popper, a native of Cape Town, South Africa, is best known for his huge public art displays, including a commemorative sculpture for the Nelson Mandela School of Science and Technology in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. He has also created sculptures for the Boom Festival in Portugal and the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Australia.

He encourages visitors to derive their own meaning from the sculptures and find a connection between trees and nature.

Three new large-scale sculptures will be added in May 2022, including one commemorating the arboretum’s centennial. “Human+Nature” will be visible until March 2023.

“Basilica” by Daniel Popper features two hands joined by intertwined roots. It is one of his five sculptures in “Human + Nature”, exhibited until March 2023 at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, near Chicago. (Courtesy of Morton Arboretum)

“Heartwood”, by Daniel Popper, presents an imposing face divided in two. It is in the Europe Collection at Morton’s Arboretum. (Courtesy of Morton Arboretum)

Set back a little in the woods, “Sentient” is a diverse sculpture of human facial features intertwined with root structures. It can be viewed at Morton’s Arboretum until March 2023. (Courtesy of Morton’s Arboretum)

“Hallow”, a huge female figure, emerges near Meadow Lake and Frost Hill Road at Morton’s Arboretum. It is part of the ‘Human+Nature’ sculpture exhibit on view through March 2023 at the 1,700-acre park in Lisle, Illinois, near Chicago. (Courtesy of Morton Arboretum)