Telling the story of The Understory

Last weekend was the artist reception and guided sculpture walk for Artists in Dialogue with the Landscape at Adkins Arboretum. The sculpture was led by the curators who are environmental artists themselves, Mary and Howard McCoy and it was really lovely to hear them talk about the origins of this group show. Back in the 90s I believe is when they were first invited to create land art at the arboretum and it was received so well that they were invited to do it again. And then again. And then they said, let’s start inviting other artists who create in the land.

Elizabeth Miller McCue, Marcos Smyth, Mary McCoy, Howard McCoy, me

I met them at my first outdoor installation in Baltimore in 2015 and they invited me to come out to the Eastern Shore and visit the arboretum and see if the environment there spoke to me. I am so grateful to them for their welcoming energy and I feel so fortunate to know such wonderful, creative stewards of the earth. They inspire me.

I didn’t take that many photos. Sometimes it is hard to get a good photo of art that is out in the environment. It’s always best to be experienced in person. This image doesn’t even have the whole installation in it, but I wanted to share Stephanie Garon’s installation. There is a third willow bundle that is smaller and to the left.

Stephanie Garon, Passage

I did not get images of Elizabeth Miller McCue’s installations- those really need to be experienced in person. One of them was a fun educational piece about a dinosaur that roamed this area. I met Elizabeth at a previous reception at Adkins and it was so nice to catch up and hear her thoughts about the Mother Tree and mycelial network.

Marcos Smyth’s interactive piece, Revelator, is really wonderful and also needs to be experienced in person. There was a young girl in the group and I will quote her as she and I went through his piece and came out on the other end, she exclaimed, “Neat!” I really loved hearing him talk about his process from visiting the site, to the drawing board, to getting the willows to the site, to the building of it and how when you experience the piece, all senses are involved. Well, except maybe taste.

Marcos Smyth, Revelator at Adkins Arboretum

Again, this image doesn’t even have the whole installation in it. It was pretty monumental! He wrote a really wonderful blog about his creative process and his end photos are much better than the ones I took.

I love to create and I love to write, but I do not love public speaking. ha! But the thing that is great about talking to a group of people in front of my artwork is hearing and seeing how they receive it. I keep thinking a comment one person said that my book almost seemed like a sacred text. Ever since that comment I keep thinking about how trees so often have appeared in origin stories around the world. I wonder when we, as a collective, lost that reverence. And I think we have paid the price since that loss.

There was one more installation that I did not get a photo of either and that was of Melissa Burley’s “Caught in a Web” which spoke to the increasing severe storms that cause so much destruction in their wake due to the climate crisis that we are currently in. Very poignant considering the past few days of bad air conditions all along the east coast from the Canadian wildfires. We are all connected.

There’s a wonderful write up of the show in the Chestertown Spy. If you are driving over to the beaches this summer and have time for a little detour in Ridgely, MD, the exhibit will be at the Arboretum through September.

Bridgette Guerzon Mills' Secret Language of Trees: the Understory, book art sculpture at Adkins Arboretum
Bridgette Guerzon Mills | The Understory, book art sculpture at Adkins Arboretum

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