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Garden Presents SUPERnatural Sculpture Exhibit This Spring!

Featuring gigantic, flowing aerial art, larger-than life glass plant sculptures.

Garden Presents SUPERnatural Sculpture Exhibit This Spring!

Seeing is believing when it comes to a duo of art exhibitions coming to the Atlanta Botanical Garden this spring. One features a gigantic, immersive aerial art installation floating through the treetops, while the other showcases larger-than-life glass sculptures of blooming plants towering among the flower beds.

SUPER natural: Aerial Art in Motion, Glass Art in Bloom, opening May 15, features a custom-created "skynet" billowing in the air above Storza Woods like a flock of multi-colored birds, while over-scale glass floral sculptures blossom throughout the more formal gardens. The skynet, called "Dream Flora", is an experiential aerial sculpture by Patrick Shearn of Los Angeles-based Poetic Kinetics, known for its large-scale works of public art; the contemporary glass art is the creation of Seattle artist Jason Gamrath.

"Our guests have come to expect spring exhibitions of extraordinary sculpture, and the combination of these two displays of contemporary art, which in both cases are over the top, is going to blow them away," said Mary Pat Matheson, the Garden's President & CEO. "On one hand, they will get to explore these gorgeous over-sized glass sculptures of colorful orchids, pitcher plants and lotuses in the Garden and on another level to lose themselves in the fantasy-like movement of a flowing ribbon of color overhead in the woodlands. Together, the two make for a super-sized showing of art that Atlanta has never experienced before."

"Dream Flora," on display through September 19, is composed of red, orange, purple and yellow nylon streamers attached to webs of nylon fishing net that are suspended by ropes in the trees of the Southern Seasons Garden. The installation then extends to the Canopy Walk, where it flows above, under and beside the suspension bridge, crossing the entry road at two points and gliding through the air like a flock of birds.

The 12,500-square-foot skynet ranges in width from five to 25 feet and in height from 12 to 40 feet. The design creates a fanciful, almost lyrical, expression that, with its brilliant colors, explores the all-green tree canopy, leading guests to experience Storza Woods in a fresh, unexpected way.

Shearn designs his signature skynets to evoke the natural phenomenon of flocking, such as schooling fish or swarming insects. Because the sculptures are suspended with transparent netting and rigged inconspicuously, the colorful streamers appear to float on their own while fluttering in the wind.

"What really moves me - and I hope, those experiencing my work - is the sense of awe and wonder at the invisible, natural forces at play around us," said Shearn, whose expertise in animatronics, robotics and visual effects was gleaned over a 30-year career in the film industry as a creature maker.

Shearn -- whose team of artists seeks to inspire, mystify and educate people about sustainability -- has created public art all over the world, including installations for Burning Man, the Coachella Music Festival, the City of El Paso, Texas, and Germany's 30th anniversary commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Yet, Atlanta's "Dream Flora" will be unique in that it is Shearn's first skynet for a wooded area, which presents its own share of logistical challenges. His team does computer simulations to analyze the impact of wind in all directions, and in a wooded setting, the potential for interference is great, so the design is critical.

Because of the pandemic, traveling to the Garden for an in-person site visit wasn't feasible, so a local team created a 360-degree video along the skynet's anticipated path. "We were able to stop the video at a specific location, looking in all directions, and do a screen grab," Shearn said. "Each screen grab is correlated to its location on a map, where we were able to identify specific anchor point locations on specific trees."

Another challenge was to install the skynet with minimal impact on the pristine nature of the setting, so he hired a team of skilled arborists and trained them in the specific rigging needs for the installation.

Meanwhile, in the main, formal gardens, guests may explore artist Jason Gamrath's dozens of large-scale contemporary glass sculptures reflecting the beauty of nature. Presented through October 31, the exhibition features 13 installations of about 150 pieces of brilliantly colorful sculptures - all representing blooming plants. Of those, the artist has created about 30 exclusively for the Garden's exhibition. Displayed throughout both indoors and out, the larger-than-life sculptures with metal accents depict giant pitcher plants, orchids, aloes, lotuses and more.

A master glass artist, Gamrath is known for his colorful takes on nature.

"The purpose of creating this series on a macro scale is to bring to light the beauty that exists within the micro scale of nature," said Gamrath, whose career has been inspired by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly, who presented exhibitions at the Garden in 2004 and 2016. "When I scale life forms up to be larger than a person, they can be observed with this perspective from across a room due to the overwhelming physical presence they command."

Guests may also experience the Gamrath exhibition dramatically lit at night while enjoying cocktails and live entertainment during extended hours of 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

The mission of the Atlanta Botanical Garden is to develop and maintain plant collections for display, education, research, conservation and enjoyment. The Garden is located at 1345 Piedmont Ave. NE. For hours and other details, visit atlantabg.org or phone 404-876-5859.


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