Visualizing Birth and Mothering through Daniel Popper’s “UMI”

UMI, steel and glass fiber reinforced concrete
Copyright 2021, Daniel Popper, All rights reserved
Photograph from Street Art News

Known for his massive open-air sculptures, Daniel Popper is a multidisciplinary artist whose work appears in public spaces and reimagines the human body and other forms. 

As part of his current exhibit at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, Popper has on display UMI, a large sculpture standing at 20 feet tall that celebrates birth and mothering. The sculpture represents an enormous mother figure cradling her womb, which opens in an arch big enough for people to walk through and enter.

As explained on Street Art News, the title of the sculpture, “umi,” means “life” in Swahili and “mother” in Arabic. The artwork merges the human body with the natural world, depicting the woman’s womb as rising up in a rounded form while grounded to the earth. The main shape of the sculpture comes together through Popper’s use of vine-like details that weave together to create the woman’s body.

For those who are able to view the sculpture in person, they may walk in and out of the womb, as if being born from her. For those utilizing the image in the visualization of birth, the sculpture is helpful in reminding all that the human body is a part of the natural world and birth is a process that has been experienced by many. Pregnant women who are getting close to labor can look at the image and visualize the opening of their own wombs as their babies emerge.

Daniel Popper is an internationally known sculptor, originally from Cape Town, South Africa. His work has appeared alone and in collaboration with other artists in may locations around the world. See the artist’s website for more information about his life and work.

UMI by Daniel Popper
Photograph through mymodernmet