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Samara Flight, 2022

Polychromed aluminum, aircraft cable, mechanical hardware, wind 

April 22, 2022- April 2023 



By Laura Richards and William Grant Turnbull 



Madison, WI 

UW-Madison Arboretum, Longenecker Horticultural Gardens 


This linear mobile depicted the winged seed pods, (or samaras) of Wisconsin’s state tree, the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Sculpted in lightweight materials used by the aviation industry and held aloft by a metallic cable and hardware developed for rock climbing, this trio of wind-activated kinetic sculptures mimicked the natural dispersal mechanism maple trees use. The open lattice of the samara sculptures’ wing veins spin and twirl in the wind, illustrating a natural process in color and motion.  

Biomimetics is a contemporary design movement, focused on applying the lessons of nature to human problems. While human technologies exacerbate many of the environmental challenges we face today, we can also creatively adapt our knowledge to addressing these challenges. 


The artists of Canopy Understories created this project hoping it would spark new ideas and alter the viewers’ perspective of both nature and technology. The installation questions how the things people build can be made more efficiently, sustainably, and with more grace and style. The beauty of the Arboretum’s flora presented in these sculptures symbolically articulates the aesthetic sense of place.  

See more work by these talented artists at and @paradigmforge.


This project was supported by Dane County Arts with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, The Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of The Capital Times, the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation, and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Additional funding made possible by Summit Credit Union, MG&E Foundation, Wisconsin Alpha Delta Kappa, the generosity of private donors, and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Commissioned by the Madison Public Art Project organized by Jillian Talarczyk. 

*To inquire about a purchase acquisition of the sculptures please email

Download the Canopy Understories Children's Activity Guide 


© Madison Public Art Project | Installation View Canopy Understories, 2022

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