Experience History at Rich Soil at the Garden


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This May marks the opening of the fourth outdoor seasonal exhibition at the Memphis Botanic Garden, Rich Soil at the Garden presented by Bank of America. Building upon the success of its 2017 Big Bugs at the Garden, 2018/2019 Origami in the Garden, and 2022 Alice’s Adventures at the Garden exhibits, this new, outdoor exhibition developed and first displayed in the San Francisco, California, area is officially opening to the public on May 5.

Created by American artist Kristine Mays, Rich Soil at the Garden is inspired by the movements and gestures of Alvin Ailey’s dance composition “Revelations.” The 29 wire sculptures in seven groupings will be placed throughout the Memphis Botanic Garden grounds through October 1. Each sculpture consists of thousands of pieces of wire hooked and looped together to create these intriguing forms which pay honor to ancestors–those that walked, lived on, and tended to this land–to the lives that have been overlooked and “forgotten” within our history. These forms deliver a message of strength while challenging how we view ourselves and others. Within the confines of hard metal wire is a sense of resilience and perseverance–a need to push forward and thrive. The work also speaks to identity–the question of who we are, what we can do with our lives, and the impact our lives have on the world. The implied movement in the works evokes expressive gestures through the delicate balance between perceived fragility and realized strength.

“I breathe life into wire,” says artist Kristine Mays. “Using hundreds of individual pieces of wire, I have developed a way of expressing the human form. As an artist, I am very aware of the impermanence of life. With metal wire, I have timelessly captured a fleeting moment that I hope will last for decades. My artwork points to the soul and spirit, transporting the viewer into another place. It’s about reconnecting to a deeper purpose -- the soul and spirit of our lives. I transform hard rigid wire into soft flowing movement. I create the outer shell, the exterior of a human being, but provoke you to see what’s within. Memories and the way we have loved one another far outweigh our status or possessions -- and yet sometimes a simple dress or a body in motion may trigger a memory from the past, allowing us to visit that which has imprinted our lives. As my practice has evolved, I have created work that points to the ancestors, making the invisible, visible.”

Visitors to the Garden can dig into the exhibition during the opening weekend festivities. On opening day, Friday, May 5, the Garden is hosting the Rich Soil to Rich Souls Panel Discussion at 11 am. The esteemed panelists will discuss how art and nature can grow and heal a community featuring Kristine Mays, Rich Soil at the Garden Artist, Karen Niceley, Community Engagement Manager for Collage Dance, Dorimar Ferrer, Executive Director of Cazateatro, Lar’Juanette Williams, Executive Director of Memphis Black Arts Alliance, and Anne Froning, Co-Owner of Being:Art.


Rich Soil at the Garden Family Day on Saturday, May 6, from 10 am-4 pm allows guests to immerse themselves in the exhibition. Visitors to the Garden on this day can meet artist Kristine Mays, enjoy performances by Collage Dance that were inspired by the exhibition, and children can try their hand at creating their own miniature sculpture using wire. Plus there will be a cash bar and food trucks on-site for a picnic lunch.

Beyond opening weekend, visitors can en-RICH their experience at the Garden on the last Sunday of May through September with music & performances from local arts & cultural organizations. Rich Sounds at the Garden, a brand new event series developed in conjunction with the exhibition, will premiere on May 28 with Ekpe Abioto and continue on June 25 with Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Group, July 30 with Memphis Jazz Workshop, August 27 with Stax Academy, and September 24 with Memphis Symphony Orchestra Ensemble. There will also be a cash bar on-site to grab a seasonal sip on these special afternoons.

We invite visitors to the Garden to take a moment to pause in nature and reflect as they experience these intricate & evocative sculptures and encounter arts and cultural programming in the heart of our city. Learn more about Rich Soil at the Garden & the accompanying events at membg.org/rich-soil.