Arboretum exhibit features Mary Murchison, local nature artist

Published 2:11 pm Friday, June 20, 2014

NATURE'S BEAUTY: This nature mandala was constructed in the fall by Mary Murchison along the Arboretum’s Pond Journey and is composed of red maple leaves, pine cones, and magnolia seed pods. Submitted photo

NATURE’S BEAUTY: This nature mandala was constructed in the fall by Mary Murchison along the Arboretum’s Pond Journey and is composed of red maple leaves, pine cones, and magnolia seed pods.
Submitted photo

The circle – it is a shape that permeates our lives. We make our daily journey through day and night, gaze upon the moon or sun, cut a carrot for our dinner salad, and count the rings on a felled tree stump. As a child we may have sung a song and danced around in a circle, before we “all fell down”. Searching for circles in nature can offer us an entertaining pastime with a child, looking for circles on a walk through woodland and meadow, perhaps finding them in a flower, a seed, or a spot on a leaf.

The Crosby Arboretum is always seeking new activities for the public to engage in that will allow them to enjoy and explore the wonders of the natural world. This Saturday will be no exception, as you are invited to experience the unique approach discovered by one of our Pearl River County residents to “celebrate nature”.

Carriere resident and Arboretum member Mary Murchison has a delightfully individual technique of using plant materials as design elements to fashion “nature mandalas”. With flowers, leaves, and other plant parts, Mary creates circular arrangements and then takes photographs of her ephemeral work.

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Mary’s photographs will the inaugural exhibit for the Arboretum’s new gallery area located in the Visitor Center this Saturday, June 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. Admission to the event is free, and light refreshments will be served. Mary will also design a number of nature mandalas on the Arboretum, waiting for your discovery that day.

Some of the circular designs Mary says she is most pleased with are those that she creates quickly and spontaneously. Other arrangements may be very intricate, and involve a great deal of thought, planning, and careful placement. While she creates some mandalas in a natural setting, others will be given a specific background suited to the materials, such as a tabletop or colored cloth.

Creating nature mandalas can be a fun family activity. Even small children can participate and take pride in their creations and the fact that everyone is able to combine their efforts to construct something of beauty. Mary can trace her own inspiration back to her childhood, and the time when she watched her mother arranging plant material in a circle to pass the time – a “doodle”, so to speak. But this simple design made a lasting impression on her, and has certainly served as the spark for what she is doing today.

The story of how Mary was “discovered” is an example of how social media now plays a role in many of our lives, and can have some unexpected and delightful benefits. Mary’s photograph appeared on my Facebook news feed from our mutual Facebook friend, Debbie Murchison. The picture caught my eye because it was of the Pinecote Pavilion. But the circular arrangement of natural materials lying on the deck in the foreground of this photo made it clear that someone was out on our property having great fun, and had chosen a unique approach to do so.

Mary’s nature mandalas generate comments and “likes” on Facebook as she continues to inspire her friends and family. Her creations take us away from our mundane tasks for a moment and allow us to experience the uplifting beauty found in the natural world, as well as the talents of this person who has been steadily and modestly producing such enchanting works of nature-based art.

Come to the exhibit on Saturday, and you will soon understand just what a difficult process it was to pick only a few photographs to frame for display. In addition to her displayed art, a rotating slide show will feature two hundred images of Mary’s nature mandalas.

Another opportunity for children to explore the wonders of nature will be our Kids’ Field Walk and Clay Class on Saturday, June 28, from 11 to 11 a.m. Children will walk the Arboretum paths and collect materials from nature, and will use them to make relief tile impressions in self-hardening clay, in this class led by Ann Lott, art teacher from Slidell High School.

There is no age limit for this program. All children or groups of children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Program cost is $6 for members’ children and $8 non-members’ children.  Please call to register by June 27.

For more information on the Arboretum’s activities, visit



Look up the keywords “nature mandala” on your favorite Internet search engine to see images and more information about this activity.


By Pat Drackett