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Rooted in earth, sky and relationships
Apr 24, 2011 | 502 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print

By Unsie Zuege

Lydia Holsten was thrilled.

Holsten, from Victoria, was walking the grounds of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum last Friday, with a friend, admiring the “Steelroots: Touching Earth & Sky” exhibition. Suddenly, an SUV pulled up and stopped. Out jumped a man with long, curly, salt- and-pepper hair, wearing a long black coat.

“Do you love it or hate it?” Steve Tobin asked as he ran up to her. “Want a picture with the artist?”

“Oh! You’re the artist?” Holsten said, surprised.

“I am,” Tobin said as he reached out to shake her hand.

Holsten couldn’t believe her luck. She couldn’t stop smiling, and made sure to snap a few photos of Tobin with the sculpture she’d been admiring, and Tobin’s driver took care to snap some photos of Holsten and Tobin together.

“Sandy Tanck is a friend and she invited us,” Holsten told Tobin. Tanck is manager of Interpretation at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Tobin spent about five minutes with Holsten, describing to her what he saw in it, and what had inspired it.

“It’s like a cathedral root,” Tobin said, as they walked around the white rooted sculpture. “It’s all gothic arches – as you walk around it,” he motioned to the roots, “one will overlap with the other visually. As you walk around, all the arches change. It’s like the bone structure of a church, and the surroundings become the foliage of the piece. I see it as a way to worship nature.”

Back in the SUV, Tobin was equally thrilled to have met Holsten.

 “How often does it happen that you’re able to meet the artist?” Tobin mused. “By talking to her, I gave her words and perspective to help explain her feelings. She knew she liked what she saw and how it made it her feel. By giving her the words, it’s giving her the vehicle to explain what she was experiencing.”

Cathedrals in the sky

This is only the second exhibition of Steelroots. It was first shown in the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill.  

In February, 10 flatbed trucks hauled the 16 sculptures to the Arboretum, where they were set into place throughout the grounds.

Tobin visited the Arboretum last year to select the settings for each of the metal sculptures that range in colors from white, to red, to black.

The sculptures can be seen along the Arboretum’s 3-Mile drive, and along walking paths in many of the gardens.

“It’s all about figures and relationships,” Tobin said of his work. He stopped at a sculpture that forms an arbor of sorts over a walking path.

“This is like two figures coming together,” he said. “From one angle, it’s conflict; from another, it’s an embrace, and viewed from another angle, you can see a peace sign form.

“It’s the root as a metaphor … for relationships and history and the power of the unseen,” Tobin said.

He described the root shapes that soared overhead to the bone structure of a cathedral; others seem to form shapes that hint at family units and groups, the roots becoming arms, shoulders, legs reaching out.

While the sculptures are massive, rooted into place, they take on different moods as the seasons change. The white sculptures seem to melt into the winter snow; come spring and summer, they will pop from the landscape. The darker shapes echo surrounding trees, their frames changing along with the changing colors of each season.”

Tobin said the sculptures were made to be complete by themselves as well as collectively.

“Each piece is a melody,” Tobin said. “And an exhibition is like creating a symphony of melodies.”

Steelroots: Touching Earth & Sky

What: 16 massive sculptures, of rolled and bent steel pipes, created by artist Steve Tobin

Where: Throughout the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chanhassen

When: Seven days a week, Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Now through Jan. 31, 2012

Admission: Adults, $9; members, free; ages 15 and under, free



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January 24, 2012
The Steelroots exhibit is being disassembled this week at the Arboretum.
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