STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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There’s something very different about the landscape of the Morris Arboretum.
“Morris Arboretum in Motion: The Kinetic Sculptures of Lyman Whitaker” is a garden installation of more than 50 wind-activated works by the Utah artist. “The forms and shapes are derived from the plant kingdom. They all have their own mood and they reflect the different fauna that’s around. I like to look at them as individual spirits,” said Whitaker, who had just arrived in Chestnut Hill for an April 1 grand opening celebration that featured the creation of a new sculpture with the help of W.B. Saul High School students.
Giving an organic quality to forms constructed of copper, steel and stainless steel, Whitaker confirmed that there’s a considerable amount of science that goes into making sure his kinetic sculpture catches the wind and moves. “There’s quite a bit of technique. I always wanted to be an engineer or a scientist,” he said.
You can’t miss Whitaker’s handiwork because the smallest of his sculptures stand five feet tall. Setting up his artwork requires cranes, backhoes and other heavy equipment. But after the installation is complete, and a breeze hits the moving parts, viewers have been known to become mesmerized. Whitaker said he finds it to have a “calm, meditative power.”
On exhibit at the Morris Arboretum through Oct. 9, they are intended to make observers think about their surroundings and their own relationship to nature. They’re also available for purchase, with 25 percent of sales going directly to the arboretum.
“I’m lucky to have a broad appeal. People with sophisticated tastes like them, and those less familiar with art find them intriguing and enjoyable to watch,” said Whitaker, who has been sculpting for more than 40 years.
Expanding on the in-motion theme, the Morris Arboretum is also observing the 20th year of its Garden Railway display. Model trains will be zipping around an outdoor quarter-mile track, surrounded by miniature plantings and replicas of famous Philadelphia landmarks, and other buildings, with a whimsical theme.
Visit www.morrisarboretum.org and www.leopoldgallery.com.
Where is the Morris Arboretum? Isn’t it part of the University of Pennsylvania?
It is, but you’ll find it at 100 E. Northwestern Ave. in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. The 92-acre horticulture display garden features a collection of mature trees, a formal rose garden, historic water features, a swan pond and what they say is the only remaining freestanding fernery in North America. A permanent exhibit, “Out on a Limb — a Tree Adventure,” transports visitors 50 feet up into the treetops on a canopy walk that requires no climbing.
When is it open?
Weekday hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Extended hours will be in effect Wednesdays in June, July and August until 8 p.m.
What’s the admission fee?
$17; $15 for seniors 65+; $9 for youths 3-17 and students, active and retired military. Group discounts are available by calling (215) 247-5777, ext. 157.