Ilze Arajs Biography
Ilze Arajs lives in Evanston, Illinois. Her natural resonance with the vitality of plants and their potential for poetic metaphor began in early life. In childhood in the Boston area and later in Ohio, she was free to wander the greenhouses managed by her floriculturist father. Bilingual in Latvian and English, Ilze drew inspiration from ancient Latvian folksongs (“Dainas”). In them, she discovered how lyrical observations of familiar plants can nurture spiritual affinities between humans and the natural world.
At the age of ten, Ilze began study at the Toledo Museum of Art Children’s Program, and later in high school developed a passion for biology. Receiving her BA in Art Education from the University of Toledo, she taught art in the public schools. Arajs received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she then taught for twelve years as a Visiting Artist and Assistant Professor. While teaching at the Evanston Art Center and the Chicago Botanic Garden, she completed a series of large textile collages of prairie plants and of the shifting patterns of deep soil layers. Two solo exhibitions resulted: “Quickening Earth” (1990) at the Chicago Botanic Garden and “Underground Patterns” (1995) at the Beverly Art Center in Chicago. Her study of large brushwork with Kazuaki Tanahashi resulted in the solo exhibit of ink paintings and textile collages “Dancing Sprouts” (1993) at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Evanston, Illinois.
Ilze Arajs uses photography as a tool for close-up study of different energy states in plants. Her macro photography finds its most recent expression in large-scale pigment prints. A five-year study of emerging fern fiddleheads has resulted in the solo exhibition “Emerge and Unfurl, photography by Ilze Arajs” (February 8—May 11, 2014) at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago.