Jenni Ward installs the more than 300 pieces of “Spore Patterns” by hand at the Price Sculpture Forest. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

Jenni Ward installs the more than 300 pieces of “Spore Patterns” by hand at the Price Sculpture Forest. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

Mushroom-inspired piece grows in sculpture forest

A new installation joined the many nature-themed artworks in the Price Sculpture Forest this week.

A new installation joined the many nature-themed artworks in the Price Sculpture Forest this week.

Jenni Ward, a ceramic artist from Santa Cruz, Calif. drove up to the Central Whidbey sculpture park and gardens to install her unique piece, “Spore Patterns.”

The work consists of more than 300 wedge-shaped ceramic pieces reminiscent of shelf fungi arranged in a circular pattern.

“If you had a mushroom cap and you flipped it over in the dark on a piece of paper, it would leave the spore pattern as a ghost-like image on the paper, so I’m using that structure as inspiration,” Ward said.

She said the work was also influenced by the concept of connection to nature that fungi represent.

Mushrooms and other fungi are connected by an underground root-like network called mycelium. Trees and other plants can communicate with each other through the fungal network.

“I’m kind of using that as a symbol of being connected to the earth and how things are all connected to each other in nature, and then how we as humans are also connected to nature,” Ward said.

Ward first learned about the sculpture forest online, where she saw that owner Scott Price was looking for more art to add to the collection.

When “Spore Patterns” was selected, Ward drove to Whidbey Island in a camper, which she has been living in on site while installing the pieces.

The sculpture forest, which opened in October 2020, consists of two short trails, “Nature Nurtured” and “Whimsy Way.” Price is very deliberate in the selection process for the forest, choosing only those art pieces which align with the trails’ themes.

He is also deliberate in the placement of the sculptures. Each one is sited so that the surrounding nature complements the art itself. Price arranges the art in such a way that visitors can only see one sculpture at a time. He said his intention is that when visitors stop to look at the artworks along the path, they will also take greater notice of the surrounding nature than they might on a more traditional hike.

“It’s both nature preserve and art experience, and it’s intentionally designed for one to support the other,” he said.

“Spore Patterns” will be in the forest long-term, but the piece is for sale.

The sculpture forest is open every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. or sunset, whichever occurs earlier. It is located at 678 Parker Road in Coupeville, and admission is free.

Art patrons can see more of Ward’s work at jenniward.com.

Jenni Ward installs the more than 300 pieces of “Spore Patterns” by hand at the Price Sculpture Forest. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

Jenni Ward installs the more than 300 pieces of “Spore Patterns” by hand at the Price Sculpture Forest. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

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