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Amy Ragus's "Spring has never failed me yet, May 2020."
Amy Ragus's "Spring has never failed me yet, May 2020."copyright Amy Ragus

What cherry-blossom season is to Washington, D.C., lilac season — meaning the next few weeks — is to the Arnold Arboretum. Although the arboretum is open to visitors, who are urged to observe social distancing, the pandemic means there will be no formal Lilac Sunday program. That event is a harbinger of Boston spring right up there with the Swan Boats’ return to the Public Garden.

There are online alternatives. On Tuesday at 1 p.m., arboretum docent Chris McArdle will lead a virtual lilac tour. Registration is required. That is not the case for “A Walk in the Arboretum: Digital Collages by Amy Ragus.” It’s available on the arboretum website through July 18.


The show follows a chronological progression, consisting of 21 color images Ragus took between October 2019 and August of last year. Ragus’s procedure was to stand at a spot in the arboretum, taking multiple images. She would then Photoshop the pictures into a single image. That’s what “digital collages” in the show’s subtitle refers to. The aim is to give a multi-perspective view of various spaces in the arboretum.

The collaging can sometimes produce an odd sense of dislocation. Along with trees and other vegetation, there’s the occasional fractal effect, with rectangles of light blue in — or, rather, superimposed on — the sky. Somehow this doesn’t detract from the you-are-there effect Ragus is striving for but enhances it. The images are never less than deeply felt. “Sometimes I am overly sensitive,” Ragus said in an e-mail, “and can see death in fallen trees or even a bent branch. But I can still smell the lilacs.”

Mark Feeney can be reached at mark.feeney@globe.com.