Morton Arboretum features fall views, new Human + Nature Exhibit

Five new sculptures displayed in various locations of arboretum


UMI sculpture at Human + Nature exhibit at Morton Aboretum (Hepokoski/LION).

Macy Hepokoski and Gabriella Rauf

The Morton Arboretum, located at 4100 IL-53, Lisle, is a public garden and outdoor museum with a mission to collect plants from around the world and display them for the public to study and enjoy. 

This past summer, artist Daniel Popper created five sculptures to be featured exclusively in the arboretum. The sculptures are named Hallow, UMI, Sentient, Heartwood, and Basilica. They are up to the viewer’s interpretation, but intended to help connect the viewers to trees and nature. The Morton Arboretum also contains a children’s section, a souvenir shop, concessions and many different plants and trails to follow. The exhibit is the perfect place to go with family and friends to have a breath of fresh air, get some physical activity and appreciate nature, all while feeling COVID-19 safe as it is primarily outside. 

When entering the parking lot, it seemed busy, especially for a Sunday afternoon. However, upon entering, there were never any large crowds and we had a lot of personal space. At the entrance, there are kind and helpful staff members who are equipped with knowledge of the arboretum’s layout in case one gets lost, or in our case, do not know how to read a map. Though there were signs near the sculptures for direction, it would have been more helpful to have staff members throughout the arboretum, or additional signs, as some sculptures were farther than anticipated and harder to find. The sculptures of the Human and Nature exhibit are spaced out throughout the arboretum, with some being on the East Side and others on the West Side. If you go on a hotter day, you might break a sweat with all the walking. We recommend going on a nice fall day with moderate temperatures. 

When we first started to look for the sculptures we were not completely sure what to expect, but  were surprised at the size (each one between 15 and 26 feet) and detail in them. The closest sculpture to the entrance, Hallow, was the first one we saw. At 26 feet tall, it towered over us. In the middle of the sculpture is a space where people can go inside. The interior part of this sculpture has just as much detail as the outside, with the ceilings and walls made of wooden planks, decorated with metal roses. You are allowed to touch all statues, but are not allowed to climb them. 

The second statue, Sentient, was a challenge to find, as it was buried in the trees. The design of this sculpture had us questioning what its ties to nature were. Our interpretation was that it represented the differences and similarities between all people. The last sculpture we saw on the East Side was UMI. Both Heartwood and Basilica are featured on the West side of the arboretum and we recommend  driving to these sculptures. However, if you want to be fully immersed in nature you can travel by foot, but it would just be more of a walk. UMI featured a pregnant woman cupping her belly. The detail in her face was astounding. Like Hallow, you could go inside this sculpture. It seemed right at home in nature with a body that looked like it was made out of trees. 

You definitely need to be filled with energy, and have sunscreen handy depending on when you go, in order to get the full experience. The Morton Arboretum does require quite a bit of walking. However, it was the perfect day trip and is something new to try with friends and family. Definitely pack some water and snacks, and spend the day appreciating what mother nature has to offer.

Admission to the park for the day costs $11 for children and $17 for those 18 and over if they are guests. For a standard membership there is a $65 annual fee, which allows holders of the pass admission 365 days a year. All admissions require a timed entry online registration. Overall, we gave the exhibit 4/5 paws- every sculpture exceeded our expectations and were amazing pieces of art. The only change we would make is shortening the distance between the sculptures, as some of them were hard to find and required a large amount of walking. While the staff at the entrance were friendly and helpful, it was hard to find anyone to point you in the right direction after actually entering the arboretum. Still, we recommend that everyone goes at least once to have a fun, care free, and interesting day.