True, this isn’t the season of fragrant roses or abundant bloom at Memphis Botanic Garden. But it’s also true that this is a great time to visit MBG to enjoy the outdoor art show Origami in the Garden2 appearing through March 24. And the trompe l’oeil design of the sculptures based on the ancient craft of paper folding truly fools the eye at first glimpse.

The 20 figures on display throughout MBG’s many gardens look like delicate, paper models of animals and elements from nature, such as stars. Yet they are made of aluminum, bronze, and steel. These sturdy sculptures include cranes taking flight, life-size horses galloping across greenery, and a raptor eyeing a mouse frozen on a rock.

Cover Photo: Memphis Botanic Garden Facebook

 

Adapting Ancient Arts

Paper folding originated in China around 105 A.D. and was developed into the intricate art of origami by Japanese monks during the sixth century. Around 2000, artist Kevin Box of Santa Fe, New Mexico, began exploring origami as a way to design sculptural models.

Box adapted lost wax casting — an even older craft — to convert folded and crushed paper creations into metal sculptures. In a 2016 video for PBS, he explained that the process traditionally begins with a clay sculpture. However, Box said, he begins with a paper model and “engineers the paper with wax to work within the casting process” creating a mold for liquid metal.

Collaborating Among Artists

Origami in the Garden2 includes solo works by Box. The superscript “2” in the title means “Box squared” and indicates collaboration with his artist wife, Jennifer Box, on many aspects of the project.

The works also include pieces involving Box’s collaboration with the late Tim Armijo — a Santa Fe artist who worked in many disciplines — as well as renowned origami artists Te Jui Fu, Beth Johnson, Michael G. LaFosse, and Robert J. Lang.

Fu has published numerous books about origami. At her origami website, Johnson shares diagrams and tutorials based on her work. Lang, a physicist fascinated by the practical as well as artistic possibilities of origami, credits LaFosse’s invention of thin, super-strong paper with making large modeling possible. Both Lang and LaFosse appear in the PBS video with Box.

Learning By Viewing and Doing

Memphis Botanic Garden, which prides itself on being an educational resource for all ages, expects about 10,000 school children to visit Origami in the Garden2. Teacher resources are available at the MBG website.

An adult jewelry making class called “Fine Silver Origami” is planned for January 26. For more information, call (901)-636-4128.

The 98-acre facility located at 750 Cherry Road is home to 31 specialty gardens including the new Urban Demonstration Garden, complete with chicken coops. So, if you’re feeling cooped up on a winter day, stretch your wings and your imagination at Memphis Botanic.

 

Additional reading:

https://www.pbs.org/video/broad-and-high-origami-garden/

https://www.memphisbotanicgarden.com/SpringFestivals

https://www.memphisbotanicgarden.com/thegardens

 

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