Artist Daniel Popper Shares How Colorado Inspires

Jun 20, 2024

By Linden Butrym | June 20, 2024 | Culture, People, Art,



OVER A SIX-MONTH PERIOD, South African multidisciplinary artist Daniel Popper crafted Umi, a 21-foot-tall sculpture with a soft yet striking presence in The Aurora Highlands, a new 4,000-acre master-planned community east of Denver. The artist was influenced by the two years he lived in Colorado and the power of public art to tell a story through generations. “This piece explores the concept that our inner spirit is intrinsically linked to the spirit of nature,” he says. Here, Popper, whose large-scale permanent installations can be found in Joshua Tree National Park, Las Vegas and Tulum, Mexico, shares more about Umi as a symbol of our relationship to the earth.

Daniel Popper, “Umi” (2022, glass-fiber reinforced concrete and steel), 21 feet tall. PHOTO BY VIC MOSS/COURTESY OF THE AURORA HIGHLANDS

How did the Colorado landscape inform your design?

Umi, meaning “life” in Swahili and “mother” in Arabic, was conceived as a tribute to the entirety of nature, capturing its vast and varied beauty. This setting, nestled in the expansive plains of Colorado with the stunning Rocky Mountain backdrop, complements and enhances her visual impact.

Daniel Popper is known for his large-scale public artworks. PHOTO BY JONX PILLEMER

Describe your creative process.

This endeavor involved the intricate use of glass-fiber reinforced concrete and steel, which I carefully sculpted to mimic the organic textures and patterns of wood. The design weaves the essence of femininity with elements of the natural world, symbolizing the inherent connection between humanity and nature. I wanted to create an opportunity where people could have a space to reflect on this connection.

Umi is interactive. Why is this important?

By stepping into Umi, visitors transition from mere observers to active participants. This immersion is crucial as it encourages individuals to move beyond mental engagement and into a more physical, sensory experience. Such interactions can be profoundly transformative.

What can Umi teach us?

Umi encourages you to contemplate the symbiotic relationships that sustain us—highlighting how nature not only supports but also fundamentally constitutes our very existence. This engagement fosters an appreciation and awareness of the vital role the environment plays in shaping our identities, health and well-being.

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