The North Carolina Arboretum is pleased to announce the winners of the juried awards in the “Wild Art” outdoor sculpture showcase that has been on display in its gardens since April. And there’s still time to see the exhibit before it closes on Sept. 26!

From representations of animals to abstract renderings, the 18 sculptures by 17 artists display vibrant and varied approaches to the theme of “Wild Art,” presenting their meditations and contemplations in an equally diverse array of materials.

“It has been a joy to have these pieces enhance, and in many ways speak to, the landscape, gardens and wild places that make up the Arboretum,” said Clara Curtis, the Arboretum’s Senior Director for Mission Delivery. “The response of these artists to our invitation was inspiring to see, and the displays remain an inspiration to explore.”

Clockwise from top left: Stillness Meets Trajectory, Tributary, The Visitor, Carp and Acorn.

Award winners were selected by invited juror Jeffrey York, who has served in similar roles throughout North Carolina, as well as in South Carolina and Texas.

First place went to Stillness Meets Trajectory by Annie Mariano, which portrays a great blue heron rendered in welded pieces of re-purposed metal. The heron towers, wings spread, over the Arboretum’s stream garden.

The wooden, winding Tributary, by Western Carolina University graduate student Eli Blasko was selected for second place. Located on the lawn at the edge of the gardens near one of the primary gateways to the gardens, Tributary is one of the first sculptures encountered by visitors to the Arboretum.

The third-place prize was awarded to Carp and Acorn by David Boyajian, sited by the entrance to the Baker Visitor Center. The burnished, stainless steel oak leaves surrounding what is revealed to be the shape of a fish has served as a welcoming beacon to the center’s visitors.

An honorable mention was also awarded to The Visitor by Roger Martin, a bronze portrayal of a trio of river otters seemingly and curiously observing the gardens and visitors to the Wild Art sculpture showcase.

Juried awards are accompanied by cash prizes: $2,500 for 1st place, $1,500 for 2nd, $1,000 for 3rd and $500 for Honorable Mention.

Award winners and all of the “Wild Art” sculpture showcase are on exhibit through September 26, so there is still time to see these wonderful works by a group of talented and accomplished artists. The exhibit is available to all guests during normal Arboretum hours, and there is no admission cost to view the sculptures beyond the usual parking fee of $16 per personal vehicle.

“It is difficult to express just how wonderful the works submitted by all of these artists are,” Curtis said. “We have so pleased by the enhancement they have provided to our gardens and the visitor experience.”

The Arboretum extends its many thanks to Jeffrey York for his role in the “Wild Art” show. York’s extensive career in the arts includes tenures as Public and Cultural Arts Administrator for Chapel Hill, Director of Public Art & Community Design for the NC Arts Council and advisor to the Art-in-Transit Program of the Charlotte Area Transit System and the City of Raleigh Art Commission.

See links below to websites for the award winners below:

Annie Mariano:

Eli Blasko:

David Boyajian:

Roger Martin:

You can read read Jeffrey York’s entire juror’s statement below:

Wild Art Juror’s Statement

The theme of the exhibition, Wild Art, is specific to the surrounding Nature (with a capital N) of the Arboretum, but broad enough to allow the artists to creatively interpret that Nature. The artists responded to the theme with a menagerie of styles, materials, and methods.

My task, as juror, was to choose prize winners among a pre-selected group of talented artists.
Given such an accomplished field of sculptors to consider, I spent the day viewing and examining each sculpture repeatedly, looking at how well each sculpture was crafted, and how the artist approached shape, mass, space, scale, color, value, rhythm, texture, and other formal qualities of each work. However, with full disclosure, my selections are subjective. Ultimately my choices were what most resonated with me in form, content, and expression.

1st Place

Stillness Meets Trajectory by Annie Mariano

A majestic Great Blue Heron sculpted magnificently from welded pieces of re-purposed metal. The sculpture’s impressive scale and the creativeness of how the artist fused different scrap materials to approximate wings, beak, cowl, and feathers are what make this a sculpture to be admired. The studied naturalism of the bird’s stride as it unfurls its wings, and the nobility of its head transform the iron, steel, and copper into flesh and bone. Such a beautifully graceful avian in nature, is here plated in armor, which perhaps speaks to the creature’s prehistoric linage. The metal grounds the bird in solidity, yet it is poised to take flight, an apt metaphor, as stated by the artist, “for the past, present, and future”.

2nd Place

Tributary by Eli Blasko

Tributary combines the organic with the geometric into a deceptively simple, sculptural line drawing that belies the traditional handcraft of the artist as ship builder. An elegant, “less is more” aesthetic informs the architecturally constructed wooden form. Its beauty and connection to nature derive from the many pieces of white oak meticulously fitted together around a hidden wood frame. The sculpture is more about visual concept (line, space, rhythm, texture, etc.) than naturalism. Its serpentine-like shape may allude to such “thingness” as a slithering reptile, a flowing stream, or a mountain highway, yet the sculpture is more of a meditation on all of these distilled to an essential, and beautiful sculpted form.

3rd Place

Carp and Acorn by David Boyajian

An initial viewing of this piece is that of a vertical array of sculpted oak leaves swirling in space. Upon closer inspection, the leaves coalesce around a tracery of stainless-steel lines that not only serves as an armature for the leaves but also form a fish shape seemingly leaping through the leaves. The artist describes it “as nature hiding in plain sight.” Like an optical illusion, the sculpture creates a shift in the viewer’s perception. Augmenting this clever manipulation of the scene, the burnished surface of the leaves adds another unexpected element. As the light changes throughout the day, so does the coloration of the leaves themselves. It was quite magical to behold. Carp and Acorn presents the viewer with sculptural poetry, surprise, and imagination.

Honorable Mention

The Visitor by Roger Martin

There is an observed naturalism in the curiosity and alertness of this trio of river otters. But there are elements to this small, delightful, cast bronze sculpture that elevate it beyond mere naturalism. Through the composition, the artist pulls the viewer’s gaze from the solid mass outward to something unseen in the distance (perhaps the viewer). Each animal seems to react, rising out of the solidity of the base that retains their feet and tails sculpted in low relief. The twisting body of the tallest otter creates a visual push-pull to the overall sculptural form. The surface treatment of the animal’s bodies eschews the rendering of fur for a series of flatter planes, which helps to highlight the emotional energy of the scene.

Exhibit support for “Wild Art” is provided in part by The North Carolina Arboretum Society; Asheville Citizen-Times; B.B. Barns Garden, Gift and Landscape Company; Camilla Calnan Photography; Friendship Park at Givens Estates; The Laurel of Asheville; Mosaic Community Lifestyle Realty; Travel Guide; Smoky Mountain Living Magazine; Tryon Estates, an Acts Retirement-Life Community; and Henco North Creative Imaging.