Unfurling Tender Vitality

Macro Photography by Ilze Arajs

April 8 - June 4, 2017

Cultivate Urban Rainforest & Gallery, Evanston IL


In early spring at dawn, if you have rested your head on the ground and looked upward at fern fiddleheads only an inch or two high, you have seen an archetypal image: the essence of nature beginning anew. This is the cyclical unspiraling of new potential from the ground up and the inside out. At this tender moment, what was dormant or inwardly developing begins to move with urgency and direction.


I hope that my photographs convey something of this living miracle. A plant has choreographed the change from deepest stillness to first outward expression. In this time of transition it is graced with ephemeral colors and fleeting textures. I feel filled with energy, expectancy, and light-filled spaciousness when I am fully present to the small scale world of unfurling tender vitality.






Emerge and Unfurl

Photography by Ilze Arajs

February 8—May 11, 2014

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago, IL


The artwork in this exhibit began with a question five years ago: “How can I visually study and capture the new vitality that surges up from the earth in early spring?” So began a personal study of emerging fern fiddleheads on the verge of unfurling.


Ferns, with ancestors millions of years old, unspiral their newest expression as fiddleheads, which in temperate climates often go unnoticed under last year’s leaf litter. To align my own energy with the energy of “beginning”, I arrive at my locations before sunrise, lower myself to ground level, and direct my camera upward at one to two inches of the tiny fiddleheads. By using the first, lowest, rays of natural sunlight to illuminate the fiddlehead’s delicate structures, I seek to capture the power and vulnerability of new beginnings.


By printing the images about twenty times larger than actual size, I hope that viewers will feel their own energy align with new beginnings about to unfurl. For me, this project has been a study in how compressed matter expands into space, how darkness unrolls into light, and how inwardly contained structures unspiral to express ancient potential.


The thirty-four photographs in this exhibit are archival pigment prints, signed and produced in limited editions. To view the artwork in this exhibit, please see the fern portfolios at IlzeArajs.com.