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Sculpting an Ecosystem

Creator:
Published:
December 19, 2023
August 7, 2023
Learn how one man uses the art of water sculpture to bring natural landscapes indoors.

Jim Mueller brings little ecosystems to life with his art. He first started building water sculptures to liven up indoor spaces during the winter months, and now, he sees them as a way of showcasing the beauty — and necessity — of the natural world.

"When I look at these, and especially if they are a mimic of another environment that I've seen, I realize how precious that is. I don't want one of these sculptures to be the last remnant of that environment. I would like to think that it reminds us that we want to take care of those original pieces of art."

Video Transcript

Jim Mueller: On the outside of this stone, there will be this enormous amount of character that I'll want to work with. But sometimes, the character is inside the stone. You may or may not see any indication of it on the outside. Hopefully, you do. Sometimes, you just take a chance.

One winter in my office, it was stuffy. Like everybody else, I was waiting for spring. And it was gray outside, and I thought, "This isn't working for me." I thought, "Well, why not just bring some plants inside for a while? " I found out that in Vietnam, there was a kind of art that included fountains inside. And then I got to thinking that, "Gee, if you could create your own ecosystem, maybe you could make it work." It just felt wonderful. You just feel like, "Now I don't have to wait for spring."

What I try to do is allow the natural character of the plants, and the sound of the water, and the stones exactly as they are, as uncontrolled as possible. We simply need to relax, let go into nature, and let it give us that connection back. And I find when I try to keep myself out of it as much as possible, that's when it works best.

I go out of town, and I leave these for a couple of weeks, and I come back. And sometimes, they look better than when I left. There are wicks inside the stone that pull moisture up into the plants. Generally, people start to develop that sense that, "Wait a minute, I can actually do this. This plant doesn't hate me. It can actually grow." Maybe that'll enable me to plant something outside or plant something bigger or tend something else that's alive.

The idea is not to create a particular tree or create a particular environment, but to give the impression of that environment. It's an interpretation — as any art is an interpretation of what you feel, and what you see, and what you hear when you're in a place. I've had people who will come and look at a sculpture and say, "Wow, that reminds me exactly of this place that I was in South Africa, or in Vietnam, or in Cambodia, or in South America." And I'll say, "Well, that's great that that resonates with you.”

An environment should welcome everybody regardless of their abilities. That's what I try to do through the sight, and the sound, the smell of these — so that if somebody can't see them, they can hear them. If they can't hear them, they can see the movement of the water. If they have mental limitations, there's that nature connection that transcends that. In a moment of our day, especially a tough day, we can get that feeling, get that sound, get that smell of nature. Even if it's just for a moment, that can make a very big difference.

When I look at these, and especially if they are a mimic of another environment that I've seen, I realize how precious that is. I don't want one of these sculptures to be the last remnant of that environment. I would like to think that it reminds us that we want to take care of those original pieces of art.

Creators:
Grotto
Published:
December 19, 2023
August 7, 2023
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