Spring flowers aren’t the only new sights popping up around The North Carolina Arboretum. Wild Art, a sculpture showcase running from April 1 through September 26, features works by 17 local and national artists situated throughout the gardens of the Arboretum.

“A number of years have passed since the Arboretum welcomed spring with a sculpture showcase of this magnitude,” says Clara Curtis, Senior Director for Mission Delivery. “We are pleased to present this body of work in our gardens in an effort to enrich and stimulate thought and imagination. The creative process and working with each artist in Wild Art has been a joy.”

Each of the pieces featured in this juried exhibition displays the artists’ reflections on the natural world and wildlife and offers gateways into the surrounding landscape, according to Exhibits Curator Ashlee Lanier. 

“We wanted the pieces to give guests another way to contemplate the environment both here at the Arboretum and in the world at large,” Lanier says. “In some ways, these sculptures just feel like they interweave with the gardens here and invite people to explore.”

Among the 18 sculptures are those, like Grace Cathey’s “Big Al” and “Leo” by Pokey Park, that portray animals and imply their motion, while others explore free form expressions, like “Raptor” by John W. Parker and Robert Coon’s “Nesting.” Still others, like “Carp and the Acorn” by David Boyajian, display the inherent elegance of nature.

“Nature is often hidden in plain sight,” Boyajian proclaims in his artist’s statement. “The poetic narrative of outdoor sculpture is also hidden in plain sight and in turn, engages the viewing public by directly stimulating thought and imagination.” 

Two years in the making, the Wild Art sculpture showcase began as an invitation for artists to create works brought to mind by the theme of nature, but some artists also took this opportunity to contemplate the isolation of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the solace they found in wild places. 

Artist Annie Mariano’s “Stillness Meets Trajectory” reflects on the reprieve she found in exploring the outdoors near her home.

“I walked and walked: in the woods, through fields, over hills, by streams – searching for some sign of normalcy amidst the COVID pandemic,” Marino writes. “And I found it. I discovered in my own backyard a great blue heron, and with it, strength and vulnerability, hope and history, stillness and trajectory.”

Mariano’s interpretation of that moment, a great blue heron rendered in iron, steel and copper, stands with wings unfurled in rapt attention by the Arboretum’s stream garden.

Art exhibitions at The North Carolina Arboretum aim to honor and preserve the unique cultural and natural heritage of the region and to support the thriving arts industry in Western North Carolina. Apart from its permanent collection visible around campus, the nonprofit is also showing the photography exhibition The Enveloping Landscape: A Contemplative Photographic Journey in the Baker Exhibit Center through May 2, and will open an exhibit of photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen titled A Life in the Wild later that month.

Artists featured in Wild Art:

Annie Mariano

David Boyajian

Eli Blasko

Grace Cathey

Harry McDaniel

Jim Gallucci

Jim Weitzel

John M. Almaguer

Julia C. Burr

John W. Parker

Lex Turnbull

Linda Pannullo

Pokey Park

Robert Coon

Roger Martin

Susan Moffatt

Todd Frahm