Plants, Sculpting, and Art


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Plant sculpture is a beautiful and fun way to be creative.

By: Mark Hender

     Another art form we’re fond of is the molding of plants to create unique and abstract shapes and forms known as ‘Plant Sculpting’. Man has been sculpting and forming the land and it’s plants for thousands of years. Plant sculptings recent rediscovery by artists, gardeners, and young people has given it ‘new life’ and popularity. Although sculpting plants isn’t a new idea, it’s recent boost in popularity has increased the amount of living sculpture seen around us today. You’ve likely seen some in your area; our local hospital has some beautiful examples!


     There are many different types of plant sculpture, from the famous Topiary gardens of ancient Rome to the beautiful Bonsai of Japan, and even to modern day crop circles. Despite our changing horticultural techniques, we retain a fondness for manipulating plants in an artistic form. The plants used in topiary are typically evergreen, mostly woody, and have small leaves or needles. To aid in the shaping of some plants, wire cages are sometimes employed in topiary as a guide, but traditional topiary required patience and a steady hand.


     The same practice exists in other cultures, including the Japanese art form of using small trees grown in artistic containers known as ‘bonsai’. The tradition dates back over a thousand years and the word is used in English as an all-encompassing term for all miniature trees in containers or pots. As was the purpose of the topiaries, the purpose of bonsai is primarily contemplation and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity.


     Crop circles are usually created of wheat or corn stalk and created by laying down or removing a portion of the crop, leaving behind beautiful and intricate shapes and designs. This type of art has roots in the Land Art movement that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These works often exist in open areas where large fields are available, many works being created in farming communities like Nebraska, Texas, Utah, and Iowa. They did not, or were not meant to last, and now exist only as recordings or photos.


     An appealing blend of art and science, the creation of living sculptures involves a creative process that gives the sculptor a chance to bring their own unique vision to life (literally!) Creating a living sculpture can be done alone, and is also a team project that is about more than just art or science. Creating a living sculpture is a process that brings artistic, logistical, and scientific minds together. A team collaborating around art can learn a lot about themselves, each other, and what partnerships are all about - while making a functional and/or ornamental public sculpture to beautify their community.
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