Discarded Orchid Leaves Inspiration for Isabelle van Zeijl’s Art

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By Jill Brooke

Trying to find positive growth from the last year, Dutch artist Isabelle van Zeijl used flowers, roots and leaves salvaged from local growers to create photographs representing “transformation, rebirth and growth.”

Clearly, the pandemic will be inspiring a lot of artists and here is another example.

“These series are a tribute to the natural change of life,” says the Dutch-based artist, who is now having a show at Isabella Garrucho Fine Art gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut.  “I find beauty in all elements of nature and her different stages.”

And the theme that is very popular now is both loss and renewal.

“When leaves fall down, they return to the soil,” she says. “Eventually they grow back into beautiful flowers, fruits and trees. Our bodies go through the same process of decay.” She says she wanted to remind people that transformation need not be always traumatic or painful but rather liberating and joyful, a “natural part of life’s continuous unfolding.”

This sentiment is part of the reason we are attracted and attached to flowers, These beautiful entities make us appreciate all stages of life from the bud to the ripe flower to how the flower falls from the stem back to earth. In fact, the Japanese have a type of floral art called ikebana which spans this cycle of life in their artistry. 

Gallery owners also say that flower-themed paintings and photographs are increasing in popularity since flowers do represent hope as well as beauty.

What is also unique about Isabelle van Zeijl is she is both the model and muse. Working with orchid grower Walter Grootscholten, she took oodles of orchid leaves and started to find ways to use them creatively. A new flower for a new show. In the past, she used roses. 

These are the results in the following pictures, which are being picked like a field of wildflowers from clients.


Alex Trimper, the co-owner of Garrucho Gallery, was so moved by her photographs that they now are featured  in his own office.

“Part of what we do is pick artists to represent a story,” he says. “I grew up with a powerful mom – (who launched the gallery) – and Isabelle created painterly styles photographs that have power. I like how these images show how vulnerability – which is seen too often as a sign of weakness – can here equal strength. It’s inspiring. I keep her images by my desk and like this strength close to me.”

Furthermore, galleries around the world have found her work very profitable since their modern edge works so well above couches and in office space.

“I have a deep understanding that all forms of life are interconnected and constantly changing, dissolving and manifesting into some new form,” she says. “I hope my art will remind people that nature teaches us how to live with courage to allow herself to let her leaves fall off. To allow what once was full of life, to fall away leaf by leaf. To move on from a magnificent past in order to embrace the future.”

That of course is a very positive outlook which is why these photographs clearly resonate. After all, beautiful flowers grow out of the darkest soil.

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and floral editor for aspire design and home magazine