Denver Botanic Gardens is wonderful on its own and has been, in fact, one of our favorite places since our childhood school field trips. But the Gardens’ sculpture exhibits of recent years have added new elements with which both the visitors and the plant life interact. The most recent exhibit, “Stories in Sculpture: Selections from the Walker Art Center Collection” running April 30 through October 2, is made possible because the Center is undergoing some renovations. Thirteen of their pieces have gone on the road to visit the more condensed setting of the Denver Botanic Gardens.

During a special preview of the exhibit, with late April snowflakes floating down, Siri Engberg, senior curator of Visual Arts at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, took us around the meandering gardens to see most of the pieces, explaining a little about each. What we found most interesting were her reactions to seeing works she is so familiar with in new and different settings. Her pleasure and surprise at certain ones looking larger than usual or more dramatic was interesting for us to observe. Similarly, because of the duration of the exhibit, we get to experience the sculptures in ever-changing scenery thanks to the changing of the seasons. Here are a few of our favorites along with some observations from Engberg:

Stories in Sculpture
“Walking Man” is by George Segal who liked to place ordinary people in ordinary scenes such as the sidewalk he is “walking” on. No, he isn’t on a tightrope wire but it does kind of look that way!
Stories in Sculpture
“Nike” by Saul Baizerman, is the only piece made of copper, preferred because it was pliable. The tone is due to natural patina.
Stories in Sculpture
“Without Words” by Judith Shea reminds Engberg of pieces from the set from a play, showing “segments of a narrative.”.
Stories in Sculpture
“Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers” by Barry Flanagan invites made up stories about what lead this rabbit to jump over a bell.

Delivered to Denver on a flatbed truck, the sculptures were moved into place via cranes and other heavy equipment. Because of their weight, some structural engineering had to happen to make sure they were stable and didn’t effect the ground beneath or plants surrounding. Engberg explained there was discussion before the works were sent about how and where to place them. But, she said ultimately, while it’s a cooperative effort, they defer to the hosting site. After hosting a variety of sculpture exhibits now, including the hugely popular Chihuly exhibit, it’s clear Denver Botanic Gardens knows how to feature each work while melding them with the natural, sculptural beauty of the horticulture.

A variety of programs are planned in conjunction with Stories in Sculpture, to create more personal ways for visitors to interact with the works. Check the website for full details. Stories in Sculpture: Selections from the Walker Art Center Collection is included with regular admission.

Denver Botanic Gardens is located at 1007 York Street in Denver.

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