Butterflies made of glass and steel shine light into Leu Gardens

Leu Gardens is full of butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, ants, praying mantises, and other insects that are larger than tourists expect.

These are enormous glass and steel sculptures by a Tucson sculptor, not little animals. Orlando's 50-acre botanical sanctuary has Alex Heveri's Glass in Flight 2 and interpretive art honoring nature's tiny marvels.

“I promote pollinators and insects in a positive way. All insects—not just butterflies—are wonderful, Heveri added. I dislike being indoors for long periods. Enhancing and visiting lovely outdoor locations is the finest way to live for me.”

After seeing a blue morpho butterfly outside the welcome center, visitors enter the gardens through a monarch archway. Another painting depicts the translucent-winged chorinea sylphina butterfly, found exclusively in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. One has quartz wings.

Through May 5, visitors can view 28 life-sized ant, hummingbird, bee, praying mantis, and butterfly sculptures in the outdoor space.

The interpretative signs on each sculpture explain each bird, butterfly, and insect species. Heveri said she worked with Leu Gardens personnel to put each piece, which takes take a month to construct.

“The venue is amazing. Although the sculptures require optimum sunlight to shine through dalle de verre glass, she remarked it looked like Jurassic Park. “Setting up was fun because everyone involved is happy and loves their job, so it went well.”

When her mother produced handmade playdough for Heveri at age 3, she became interested in art. Stained-glass windows fascinated her in Catholic school. As a full-time criminal defense lawyer, she uses art for therapy and creativity.

I wanted big outside art. I like working with forklift-moved heavy steel in the 7-10 foot range. Heveri says she self-taught sculpture. My specialty is light art. Even as a glass and steel artist, light is everything.”