SchoolArts Magazine

March 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 29 Channeling Nature D I A N A S C H E R E R CO N T E M P O R A R Y A R T I S T L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G T he art of Diana Scherer gives the phrase "working with nature" an exciting new context. Her work is an exploration of the age-old relationship between humans and nature, and especially the human impulse to try and control it. Scherer's art focuses on the root system of plants, which botanists consider to be the "brain" of the plant. She empha- sized these underground processes in her Nurture Studies ( 2012), in which she guided the growth of flowers in vases of water rather than soil, revealing how the roots mimic the shape of the vase. She further explored the directed growth process of roots in Harvest—exercises in root-system domes - tication (2015 to present), and Interwoven ( 2016). These investigations combine soil, seed, and photography of the end result. Working with Roots Scherer's work involves the use of subsoil templates as molds. The root systems are channeled, forming textile- like networks. While growing, the roots conform to the patterns, weaving and braiding themselves. These works are examples of the intuitive nature of plant root sys- tems and their ability to learn up from down, and how to successfully utilize water and/or plant food. For this series, Scherer collaborated with biologists and ecologists from Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. In Scherer's plant pieces, she approaches the roots as if she's creating woven material, ultimately designing clothing in these complex systems. The artist equates the slender white roots of grass with silk, while the thicker yellow roots of daisies she likens to wool yarn. The pat- terns that result from her guidance are reminiscent of Arabic calligraphy in the patterns of Middle Eastern rugs. Inspiration and Exploration Born in Lauingen, Germany, Scherer studied fine art and photography at Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, Nether- lands, where she has lived and worked since 2001. A major inspiration for her work was Charles Darwin's (1809–1882) The Power of Movement of Plants (1880). In this book, Darwin postulated that plants do more than react to their environment—they adapt to conditions in ways that show intelligence, movement, and the power of observation. The exploration of nature through visual art has come full circle in the twenty-first century. Early examples include the renowned Hanging Gardens of Babylon (or, possibly Nineveh) of the 700s to 500s BCE , which the Greek historian Herodotus (484–425 BCE ) described as terraces with plantings of trees and Artist Diana Scherer examines the root work in one of her low-relief sculptures. Image courtesy of the artist. bushes. A similar aesthetic and respect for nature is seen in Stefano Boeri's (b. 1956, Italy) twin apart- ment towers in Milan, Bosco Verticale (2007–2013), w hich accommodated thousands of trees and plants on its terraces, incorporating the equivalent of about 75,000 square feet (7000 square meters) of forest. Boeri's Vertical Forests were featured in Looking and Learn - ing in the May 2017 issue of SchoolArts ( page 23).

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