The next major art installation coming to the Morton Arboretum will feature five sculptures on the same scale as the giant trolls that helped the tree museum in Lisle set an attendance record last year.

Opening in June, the “Human+Nature” exhibit by South African artist Daniel Popper will bring sculptures of staggering size — 20 to 25 feet tall — to the arboretum landscape. Popper will create the larger-than-life figures with humanlike hands and curves.



“The Morton Arboretum is the ideal place to create interactive art that connects people with trees and nature,” Popper said in an announcement of the project Wednesday. “The backdrops at the Arboretum are incredible places to tell stories through art about how we all coexist with trees. Trees look after us as much as we look after them.”

More nurturing than imposing, a Mother Nature figure will invite arboretum visitors to walk inside a sculpture interwoven with root structures. Like the trolls, others in the collection will be spread across the arboretum’s 1,700 acres, encouraging visitors to venture out of their cars and take in the natural beauty.

“The sculptures are designed to inspire visitors to think about how people and trees are interdependent. People depend on trees for health and well-being, and trees depend on people to be able to thrive and provide their ample benefits,” Arboretum President and CEO Gerard Donnelly said.

The sculptures will take up residence two years after the blockbuster exhibit by Danish artist Thomas Dambo opened at the museum with equally engaging and expressive wooden trolls.



Inspired by Scandinavian folklore, the mighty guardians of the forest still lay claim to the arboretum’s woods and meadows and even a parking lot. The most prominent in the bunch is Joe the Guardian, who stands guard above the Reagan Memorial Tollway with a 30-foot spear and a wild mane.

Popper has built a memorial to anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in South Africa and art installations for music festivals in Portugal and Australia. But Human+Nature will be his largest.

The arboretum expects his sculptures will remain on display through June 2021.


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