When cultivating a garden or taking photographs of plants, most people carefully tend to the top parts – the leaves and flowers – while letting nature handle the bottom – the roots and soil. Artist Diana Scherer, in her Nurture Studies, turns that focus on its head. She takes seeds from her garden and grows plants in vases, carefully nurturing them for months, before breaking the vases and photographing the results.
It’s not a surprise that the roots of flowers and weeds are beautiful in themselves. What startles is the focus on what’s usually unseen. Scherer, a German born artist living in the Netherlands, explains: “Above ground, I let nature run its course. However, below the surface, by using a vase as a mold, I control the growth of the roots and the shape.”
Her photographs are simple, elegant and formal – the soil-coated roots of a dandelion are presented as if they were the blooms of an orchid. Says Scherer:
“I’m interested in the age-old human practice of manipulating nature. There is a certain ambiguity that I find intriguing; the idea of loving care and, at the same time, ruthless manipulation. For example, the gardener who loves nature and nurtures the plants he desires also ruthlessly cuts, snips and manipulates them.”
–from “Review of Nurture Studies” in Hotshoe Magazine by Miranda Gavin
Scherer says that, once she is done photographing a plant, she replants it in her garden and once again allows nature to take over. The roots, having had their moment in the sun, so to speak, can return to their sometimes overlooked but crucial role beneath the surface.