In 2016 the Atlanta Botanical Garden celebrated its 40th anniversary with an exhibition by world-famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. The show was a blockbuster success—notching record attendance for the garden. For this year’s annual art installation, CEO and president Mary Pat Matheson wanted to put the spotlight back on the grounds themselves.
Matheson chose friend and artist Adam Schwerner, the former director of Chicago Park District’s Cultural and Natural Resources who gained attention for his unusual public art exhibits, to create the Curious Garden (May 6 through October 29), a series of 14 site-specific installations that blend art with horticulture. “When I was a kid, my parents brought me to an artist friend’s yard in East Hampton, and she had spray-painted all the weeds all different colors,” Schwerner says. “Ever since, I’ve been interested in this comingling of nature and art, and how those things are stronger together.”
The exhibition’s most prominent installation is a forest of salvaged, bare trees spray-painted in colors usually reserved for ice cream: vivid orange and pastel yellows, pinks, blues. (Soaring up to 30 feet, most of the trees were harvested from a farm near the garden’s Gainesville location.) Elsewhere, a boat explodes with bold tropical plants, some 40 chandeliers drip with Spanish moss, and a web of colored chains draws eyes to elevated root systems.
“It’s innovative and a little quirky,” says Matheson, “in a good way.”
3 things to know about the Skyline Garden, also opening in May at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
- It occupies 1½ acres of formerly underutilized hillside space overlooking Piedmont Park’s Active Oval and offers sweeping skyline views, which you can take in from the new “back porch” gazebo.
- Garden designers created a modern look by integrating lots of unusual plant pairings (showy tulips with cacti, for instance).
- At the Anne Cox Chambers Flower Walk, more than 4,000 square feet of camellias, hibiscus, and other flowering plants saturate the southeastern flank with vibrant color.
This article originally appeared in our May 2017 issue.