A squash and a cucumber cast dark shadows on a sill. Above, a pomegranate and a cabbage are suspended by a string against a deep black background. A sense of tension builds—a slice has been cut from the melon, suggesting the recent presence of an absent actor; the exposed fruits are displayed like targets. Finally, a bullet blasts through the scene and the pomegranate explodes into hundreds of seeds and red flesh. The obliterated fruit, still hanging from a string like a public hanging, careens from the impact in slow motion.
Photographer Klaus Enrique has revived a Renaissance classic: the surreal botanical portraits of 16th-century Milanese painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo—now, rendered through the lens, not the brush. Titled 'Arcimboldo,' Enrique's homage to the painter faithfully recreates his unusual series of portraits portraying people (Emperor Rudolf II) and concepts (the Four Seasons).
Photographer Alexander James, who has worked with floral subjects for over 15 years, will go to any lengths necessary to get the shot, including submerging bouquets and fruit in a dark tank, rigging an underwater light, and even breeding butterflies in his studio.
Arizona artist Kathy Klein gathers natural materials—cones, leaves, petals—and arranges them in situ. Bougainvillea in Los Angeles and Opuntia fruit in Sedona—her subjects are distinctly local, but her arrangements are designed to be universal. She's adapted the Hindu concept of a spiritual mandala (Sanskrit for 'circle') into a series of flora danmalas (Sanskrit for 'giver of garlands'). Her sense of composition is lyrical and her colorplay is alternately soft and dramatic.
In 1936, New York's MoMA curated an exhibit in which the artwork wasn't displayed on walls or in glass cases. It didn't need dusting or polishing. Nope, all the pieces needed was a little watering and a high ceiling for their six-foot-tall purple spikes. The museum was showing new delphinium varieties, hybridized by Edward Steichen.
Photographer Diana Scherer's 'Nurture Studies' is beautiful evidence of the strength of a plant's root system. She looks beyond the flower to what happens below ground. Inspired by 17th century botanical encyclopedias whose plant profiles included detailed illustrations of the plant's various parts, Scherer's work similarly studies a plant as an entire entity, roots and all. Her plant portraits reveal the will of these roots—to expand their network and seek new sources of nutrients.
Whether to celebrate those plants Napoleon brought home from Egypt, or those collected by eminent botanists of the eighteenth century, a florilegium has rarely been a casual endeavor. The illustrated plant books were popular in the seventeenth century; today, those volumes remain important documents of art, science and history. Josephine Bonaparte commissioned a florigelium for her garden at Malmaison, filled with rare flowers acquired around the world. Sir Joseph Banks had one to catalogue the plants collected on Captain Cook's voyage around the globe.
London-based artist Simon Heijdens grows plants out of light—illuminated trees, weeds, and flowers with limbs and leaves that flutter, grow, and propagate. And he plants them in unexpected places—not a forest or a park, but an indoor room or a concrete corner. He's interested in nature's fluctuating narrative of growth and decay, and his work transposes these interactions onto constructed environments.
A flower's demise is a slow process—unless you're photographer Jon Shireman, in which case it happens with a quick pivot and a smash. He immerses his flowers to stiffen them, then flings them against a hard surface. The shattered remains are beautiful. 'Broken Flowers' is a striking series of contrasting pairs.
In 17th century Europe, horticulturalists began opening their gardens to plants from around the world. Plant explorers were forging into new botanical territories—inlets in South American waterways, crevasses in China's mountains—and returning with roses and fruits, orchids and lilies. Exotic plants were traded, cultivated, and illustrated. Previously, botanic illustration was largely produced for medical texts and herbals.