The Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois--about 10 miles from my house--is hosting a great exhibit this summer called Steelroots. These large steel sculptures are by the the artist Steve Tobin, and are spread throughout the Conifer Collection.
The first one you see when entering the Arboretum is this one:
It was made by digging up an actual tree root system, and casting it, I think, using a lost wax method. Even though as a trained botanist I had knowledge of the size of the roots of large trees (often almost as big as what's above ground), this piece brings that home. And introduces the concept that these natural shapes can be made into art.
Other pieces are made of steel, some colored white:
You can walk under and through the steel roots:
Some are left unfinished to change in the environment:
Morton seems to have a big commitment to art--they hold a lot of art classes, have a lot of shows. Every summer they have some kind of large pieces that relate to the natural world--last year it was huge versions of various types of animal nests.
The walk through and around these sculptures was quite nice--spotting a new piece in the distance, standing under one to look up at the sky. If you're nearby, go. The pieces are there until the end of January 2011--hmmmm, wonder what they'll look like with snow on them...