Explore ‘Origami in the Garden’ at the Minnesota Arboretum

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photo courtesy of Kevin Box Studio

Paper airplanes are about the extent of my paper-folding abilities and, frankly, there’s about an 80% chance that instead of flying they’ll immediately plummet straight into the ground. The skill and artistry it takes to create something beautiful from a single sheet of paper is what makes the Minnesota Arboretum’s Origami in the Garden exhibit all the more extraordinary.

Artist Kevin Box and his partner Jennifer Box have created enormous origami sculptures that you wouldn’t guess could possibly be made out of metal: the detailed folds and weightlessness of their pieces look as if they are folded from paper. Scattered throughout the garden at the Minnesota Arboretum, you’ll find around 25 sculptures of majestic cranes, a giant white bison, red and blue ponies, a winged horse and more.  

photo courtesy of Kevin Box Studio
photo courtesy of Kevin Box Studio

With a background in printmaking and graphic design, most of Kevin Box’s work centered around designing product packaging. But when he realized his work would simply end up in someone’s garbage can, he decided to take a different path and switched to sculpting where his work would be able to stand the wears of time and hopefully inspire and touch more people. And he has certainly done this with his origami sculptures.

Box explains, for him, the draw of the art of origami is that “each piece begins with a single uncut square of paper. To me, that’s a great metaphor for life and in a moment or in a day or in a circumstance. And what we do with that is really what defines us.”  

Each piece Box creates holds meaning and is in some way a self portrait. Hopefully you’ll be able to find your own meaning and connection with his pieces. And because Box replicates the incredible tiny and fragile origami artform on a large scale with sturdy materials like bronze, aluminum, and stainless steel, you are able to walk right up to his sculptures, touch them, interact, and get an up close look to appreciate the intricate and delicate detail of his pieces.

photo courtesy of Kevin Box Studio

The word ‘origami’ literally translates to mean “folding paper” and to create sculptures that imitate the folds and textured look of paper, Box uses a ‘lost wax casting’ process where he pours melted metal into ceramic molds. This is a laborious 35 step process and takes at least 12 weeks to complete a single sculpture.

Box muses, “I’m probably the only real paper artist that has to wear steel-toed boots but that’s the nature of sculpture.”

To create the pieces for this exhibit Box collaborated with his wife Jennifer and world renowned origami artists Te Jui Fu, Beth Johnson, Michael G. LaFosse and Robert J. Lang.

Explore the amazing origami sculptures at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum from April 28 – October 21 and on select Sundays – June 24, July 22, and August 19 – you can drop in from 1:00-2:30pm to test your own skills at folding origami and learn from expert origami artists from Origami USA/MN.

And on Thursday, May 17 at 5:30pm you can also attend an Origami in the Garden event for an informal garden tour, light refreshments, and paper-folding demonstrations. Admission for the event is $20.

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