John Siblik, Director of the NIU School of Art and Design was commissioned by The Gaylord Building, a holding of the National Historic Trust. The Project received grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Garden in the Sky project is also supported by the Illinois State Museum and displayed as an outdoor exhibition for their gallery in Lockport, Ill.  With the assistance of three School of Art and Design students; Shane Bowers, an MFA student in sculpture, Michael Allen, a BFA student in photography and recent MFA graduate in painting, Naomi Ellison, “Garden in the Sky” is on display now through October 6 at the Lockport Gallery site along the I&M (Illinois and Michigan) Canal.

“Garden in the Sky” features 24 hand crafted spheres that illuminate at the night to provoke humans interaction with nature and perceptual relationships with space.  The sculpture was funded with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” program and the Illinois State Museum’s partnership with The Gaylord Building, a site of National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Access to the installation is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Garden in the Sky daytime

Physical characteristics and installation of the piece

“Garden in the Sky” consists of 24 human scale (66 inch) spherical elements suspended in the trees along the canal.

The spherical elements consist of a skeletal structure of galvanized steel. The interior skeletal structure is comprised of several rings with vertical struts to hold the structure together. The fabric skin consists of white rip-stop nylon material that is somewhat sheer. Each element is lit at night with six solar powered LED lights.

The elements are suspended from the trees approximately 11 to 37 feet from ground level and approximately four to six feet away from the main trunk of the trees. The installation is tested to withstand torrential rain and winds up to 30 miles per hour.

Garden in the Sky at night

Garden in the Sky
Description of the work by John Siblik

“Woods and forests are Gardens in the Sky. They make for a canopy, a room, and a space to contain, to frame. A place in which to comprehend space: contained, secret, horrifying, awesome.

Garden in the Sky is about framing nature. The installation provides a structure that conveys perspective, scale, and a bit of altitude. Despite the fact that we may be at ground level, we have a tendency to map or diagram a point of view to simplify a complex system or view. I am using the word perspective both literally regarding the conveyance of space and figuratively via the conception of getting up and above the scene so that one can survey the situation, gain perspective, seek clarity, find meaning, see and understand.

Garden in the Sky is part of an art movement called environmental sculpture. This project is a means of communication for environmental, historic, and economic constructs drawn from both traditional and contemporary use of landscape imagery to engage in dialogue about what how art works.”

Garden in the Sky being installed