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Outdoor Sculpture Inviational on view at Adkins Arboretum

Jun 04, 2012 04:36PM ● By Anonymous

Artists have a way of seeing things differently. This summer at Adkins Arboretum, seven artists from the Mid-Atlantic region find surprising ways to consider the natural world, whether with garden hoses spiraling up from the forest floor or nests made of knitted Tyvek.
On view through Sept. 15, the sixth biennial Outdoor Sculpture Invitational, Artists in Dialogue with Landscape, brings the work of these artists to the Arboretum’s forest, meadow and wetlands. There will be a reception and sculpture walk on Sat., June 23 from 3 to 5 p.m.
Nature’s irrepressible urge to grow was the inspiration for two of the artists. Eye-catching in brilliant red, blue and spring green, New Jersey artist Beth Ann Morrison’s trio of garden hoses swirling up steel armatures mimic the spiraling growth of the ferns and skunk cabbages that proliferate in the moist creekside forest around them. In contrast, Baltimore artist Marcia Wolfson Ray, a part-time resident of Toddville in Dorchester County, created a broad, bristling fan of cherry branches that captures the exuberant rhythms of natural growth.
Equally spirited, Leaf Totems, a set of flags patterned with a seasonal progression of leaf colors, dances in the breeze from a bridge over the Arboretum’s wetland. Here, Washington artist Elizabeth Whiteley postulates spirit guides who teach spring leaves to unfurl and mature to catch the sun and nourish the parent plant, then die back in autumn and fall to feed the soil for the next generation of plants.
Environmental concerns are behind the work of Melissa Burley and Elizabeth McCue. Concerned with the quantities of disposables that overburden our landfills and litter our environment, Burley, of Laurel, collected cast-off bottles, all blue as clear sky or water, and enclosed them in a cage of steel arches set in the forest creek. McCue’s No Fracking raises the alarm about one of the newest dangers—hydraulic fracturing—so enthusiastically hailed as a boon to our energy needs that its repercussions have yet to be thoroughly investigated. McCue, who lives in Pennsylvania’s scenic Delaware River Valley where fracking is currently underway, has laid a brilliant orange X on the forested hillside above the creek to warn of the toxic chemicals loosed into the soil and groundwater by fracking.
As population and lifestyles increasingly stress our environment, preserves like the Arboretum become even more important as places where we can develop our awareness of the environment. Baltimore artist Linda Bills is doing exactly this with her gentle sculpture Unknown, In the Woods. This series of odd “growths” clinging to the trees at the meeting of two forest paths aren’t nests or caterpillar tents but soft pouches knitted from Tyvek. There is poetry in the way her work seems so natural, so in tune with the way birds and insects make their nests.
Being in tune with nature is perhaps the best way to know and nurture our increasingly fragile environment. Mysteriously hovering over the meadow grasses, three pairs of cones made of steel, fiberglass and plaster by Breon Gilleran, of Baltimore, invite investigation. Their open centers frame bits of sky, trees and meadow, and they resemble huge ears listening for what is too subtle for us to hear. They seem to urge our senses to sharpen so we can detect the nuances of the natural world and learn what we may be overlooking in the rush of our busy lives.
This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists, sponsored in part by Caroline County Council of Arts. It is on view through Sept. 15 at the Arboretum, located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or for gallery hours.
Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. It is a member of the American Public Gardens Association and a founding member of the Maryland Public Gardens Consortium ( For additional information about Arboretum programs, visit or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Top image: “Unknown, In the Woods” by Baltimore artist Linda Bills is among the works of seven Mid-Atlantic artists on view at Adkins Arboretum. Titled Artists in Dialogue with Landscape, the Outdoor Sculpture Invitational show is on view through Sept. 15.