Forms from Nature, Photographs by George Holzer, on View at Adkins Arboretum

We think of plants being at their most beautiful when their leaves are green and their flowers are in full bloom, but think again. George Holzer’s photographs of decaying plants are drop-dead gorgeous.

On view at the Adkins Arboretum Visitor’s Center through June 1, his large, striking photos of dried leaves, seedpods and sticks elegantly spotlight the beauty and individual character of decaying plants against deep black backgrounds. There will be a reception on Sat., April 28 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Titled Brought to Light: Forms from Nature, the show includes digital IRIS prints and pigment prints from two series that Holzer has been exploring for the past three years. In Leaves and Seeds, he focuses on the unique beauty of leaves and seedpods as they decay. Reduced to barely more than a network of veins, “Eaten Leaf I” is as intricate as golden lace, while a close-up of a deformed bud, “Magnolia Bud (Mutant),” rather than seeming misshapen, is a radiant cluster of deep red and ochre scallops.

In his other series, Stick Figures, Holzer reveals his lively sense of humor by finding anthropomorphic images in broken sticks and reeds. “Dashing Stick” seems to sprint across the paper with multiple legs and arms reaching for the next step as even more limbs trail back behind. With one leaf lifted and two arching downward, “Jumping Reed” is like a ballerina springing into the air from her pointed toe.

Holzer’s work is of exceptional quality. He developed his skills through many years of working with innovative print media. After earning his BA and MFA from University of South Florida, he worked for the university’s Graphicstudio, an experimental print and sculpture atelier, where he collaborated with well-known artists including Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Chuck Close. In 1991, he moved to the Eastern Shore to work at Saff Tech Arts in Oxford, where he continued working in experimental print media with many artists.

In his own work with digital photography, Holzer uses high quality, archival IRIS and pigment printing methods to create exquisite images in which every nuance is revealed in sensuous, velvety richness. He has always felt drawn to the natural world, especially to its wildness and what he calls the “wear and tear of nature.”

There’s a strong feeling of empathy with his subject matter. In the hands of a lesser artist, these dried leaves and sticks might look inconsequential, but Holzer’s consummate skill allows him to discover the surprising, almost psychological qualities present in each of them. The sense of grace and poise as a broken stick reaches bravely outward and the delicate but determined twists and bristling veins of a tattered leaf speak of a vigor and fortitude that contradicts their situation as dying plants.

These beautiful photographs carry an even more beautiful message—that there is no single point that is the pinnacle of life. Every step in the process from birth to death has its own beauty, whether in the life of a plant or any other being, and it’s well worth enjoying every moment along the way.

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists, sponsored in part by Caroline County Council of Arts. It is on view through June 1 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or for gallery hours.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. Through its Campaign to Build a Green Legacy, the Arboretum will build a new LEED-certified Arboretum Center and entranceway to broaden educational offerings and research initiatives promoting best practices in conservation and land stewardship. For additional information about Arboretum programs, visit or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

In photo: “Tattered Leaf II” is among the works of George Holzer on view through June 1 at Adkins Arboretum. A reception to meet the artist will be held Sat., April 28.