‘Birches and Others’ exhibit combines industrial surfaces with natural elements


Ann Singsaas, an artist and biologist living in Stevens Point, paints on steel and other metals. Her subjects are natural materials ranging from birch trunks to maple seeds and all manner of organic textural elements.

Her exhibit, “Birches and Others,” will be featured in the Arboretum’s Steinhauer Trust Gallery from January 2 through February 27.

Rendered in a highly realistic style, the natural objects seem to pop off the surface on which they are applied, inviting careful inspection of both subject and technique. Birch trunks, maple seeds and budding twigs take on a slightly surreal quality in juxtaposition with the industrial feel of the machined metal plates. The objects themselves appear to occupy a space just in front of the picture plane.

“I would like the viewer to feel the texture with their eyes and notice something about nature they have, in the past, glanced at, but not really seen,” says Singsaas. “Putting an object alone in a sterile context of brushed metal serves to magnify the organic details of the stems and seeds and the naturalness of the whole.”

“I’m not looking for inner deeper secret meaning in these natural elements, they have a magic all their own,” she adds. “I do, however, use this visual style to trick the viewers eyes and get them to really look at something simple, whether it be a milkweed pod of a hunk of steel, and see it as beautiful and intricate.”

Located in the Arboretum Visitor Center, 1207 Seminole Highway, Madison, the Steinhauer Gallery is open during regular Visitor Center hours—9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 12:30 – 4 p.m. weekends.

The gallery has a two-fold purpose—to celebrate Wisconsin’s natural heritage and the human connection to the land through the visual arts, and to showcase the creativity and talent of artists who draw their inspiration from nature. Most items on exhibit are for sale. Those interested in purchasing are asked to contact the artist. Profits from sales support Arboretum projects.

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.