Morton Arboretum opens “Of The Earth” large-scale sculpture exhibit

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Morton Arboretum has a big new exhibit to show off…literally.

Five new large-scale sculptures have been installed throughout the arboretum’s grounds for the ‘Of The Earth’ exhibition. It’s the arboretum’s first-ever major sculpture installation by a woman. Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska used reclaimed tree branches and other natural materials to carefully craft the pieces.

“We are nature”

“Her philosophy is really all about “we are nature”,” said Amy Scott, Head of Exhibitions at the Morton Arboretum. “So everything that’s on the earth is of the earth and we are all connected, which really resonates with the arboretum mission as far as connecting nature with people and enjoying the surroundings, and learning more about the benefits of trees in nature.”

Ziemska’s art has been shown across the world, but this exhibition is her largest ever. The five sculptures stand from five to 14 feet tall and up to 45 feet in length.

The five pieces from Ziemska’s ‘Of the Earth’

Her signature piece, Stillness in Motion: The Makta series, is a six-foot sculpture of a woman, designed using mostly willow tree branches.

A second piece, Ona, is a 14-foot-tall sculpture, which showcases a woman with long tree-branched hair and mirrored eyes.

Oculus includes hundreds of cross-sections of trees, which vary in size. The two 10-foot-tall human heads have mirrored eyes, and when looking into them, you can see the arboretum’s maple collection.

Strata is the longest of the sculptures, stretching 45 feet. It blends into the surrounding area and is a female figure emerging from the ground.

Lastly, Hear: With an ear to the ground, is composed using thousands of white river rocks. The five-foot-tall human head sits close to Meadow Lake inside the arboretum.

The inspiration behind the sculptures

Ziemska said the landscape at the Morton Arboretum inspired her, as it reminded her of Poland and the landscape she grew up in. She collaborated with the arboretum in the creation of the sculptures. Both sides have been working hard to get ready for Friday’s opening.

“So these pieces, most of them, use reclaimed materials, much of that from the arboretum grounds. So big thank you to our volunteers who helped us in the winter months, prep and prune trees and branches.”

The Morton Arboretum has had multiple large-scale sculptures and exhibitions in recent years. The ‘Of the Earth’ exhibition will be on display through spring 2025.

“I think everybody really just enjoys nature with this layer of art on top of it. And so they can explore our grounds, our beautiful grounds and surroundings, while still also seeing these incredible sculptures.”

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