Taryne portrait for Reader piece around plant exhibition

Taryne Messer is the creative force behind TAKATA Nursery whose installation, “An End Uncertain”, at Ace New York presents architectural, old-growth plant specimens as living works of art. A metaphorical exploration of life and art, in Taryne’s words, the show examines “…the notion of plants as metrics, a symptom of time and the ritual of care. Forces that stress and warp the plant’s growth may be perceived as negative, but can also be read as a record of maneuvering, of adaptation. Growth is reactive, incremental but to an end uncertain; insisted shapes emerge again and again as a record of a sustained connection.”

Potted and displayed on undulating podiums, these dynamic, living sculptures of nature will nourished by LED grow lights to supplement light and optimize plant health during the duration of show.

“It’s rare to have land in the city. The one window you have, it feels poetic, it’s this thing that you have to come back to. There is a real therapeutic element to working with plants. Seducing people into that, reframing the dialogue is a moving thing for me. Keeping things alive is moving. Then there is the lens or optics of nature as art.”

After spending nearly a decade in floristry, Taryne began to feel herself at odds with the industry and chose to instead focus her work with nature through the lens of healing, care and artistry. She is facilitated by her love of plants; their silence, metaphor and form, her ADHD and the view that we would all be slightly better people if we gardened more.

In the spirit of that mission, Taryne joined us for a conversation about her lineage and inspiration. She shares poetic perspective and wisdom on how to invite plant life into your world, even when surrounded by concrete.

The optics of nature as art: in An End Uncertain, old growth plant specimens are being presented as works of art. Can you share a bit about that concept and how you perceive plant life as an art form, the differences between other expressions and one that is actually living and being actively tended to?

I came to plants through floristry— an industry I spent nine years in, doing so allowed me to crossover into plants. I love so many florists— they really are some of the most lovely, hard-working people I know. I don’t want to assassinate the industry because being a hypocrite is an inescapable malady of living, but at some point working with flowers seemed at odds with itself. The theater of parading nature for one night of status without actually tending to it felt pathological. 

There is this embedded duty cooked into having plants and/or a garden— which turns on a decency, accountability lever I was searching for. Most items in your home are static— but house plants are different in their dynamism, growth— the softness of seeing and the endurance required for long-term observation and care. There’s no instant gratification or sense of really knowing what will be, per se. The unfolding is poetic, there is a buoyancy there that never gets old for me.

Would love to hear a bit more about TAKATA’s namesake, your grandmother, and her impact on your lineage and work.

Hasu Takata, my grandmother, worked as a Japanese military secretary during the Korean War in Japan, where she met my grandfather— who fortunately was not in combat but a mailman for the US military. They married and she moved to the states with him, and had five children— one being my papa.

Her father had issues with alcohol but sought refuge in the garden. The way she speaks of him is closed but contains so much respect that, despite his issues, they never went hungry— through that garden he was able to grow food and keep their family fed. The garden became a world of his own making where he could focus his energies.

That love of gardening lived on in my grandmother and she went on to teach her daughter-in-law, my mom, about gardening which became an obsession for her. My mom also struggled with substance abuse and ultimately died from an overdose— there’s so many layers to it but I do feel soothed, energetically drawn to plants. A lot of breakthroughs have happened in the silence and slowness of gardening.

My grandmother is alive, full of life, and still gardening. She always advocated for my independence; finding a purpose — it feels connective to her story that my own features plants so prominently.


-Be honest and adaptive to the light exposure your home receives: this sets the stage for which plants to select. 

It’s easier for a fern to thrive in lower, indirect light than a cactus. Embracing your light limitations, selecting plants accordingly will make for healthier plants

-If you’re hell-bent on having sun-loving plants in lower light conditions, buy an LED lightbulb. They are a relatively small investment (anywhere from $20—$140 per) but truly helpful in supplementing light in spots that don’t get enough or any! Sunlight

-If you’re limited in space, try propagating cuttings from larger plants in bud vases or bottles on window sills— wait for the roots to draw out at about 1—3 inches to plant— begonias and geraniums are my favorite varieties to do this with. You can upgrade into a small pot with soil at this stage or gift to a friend.

-If you have access to a sunny outdoor spot: try growing your own herbs from seed. The prospect of actively harvesting from them for summer dishes is a good motivational way to stay tuned in.  A packet of seeds runs $3—$4 and generally contains 25—50 seeds (chances). It’s a great education to familiarize yourself with the plant growth process. I like growing varieties that I’m always using or can’t find easily, Thai basil being my favorite; I use it on EVERYTHING.

An End Uncertain: April 6-June 25, Ace New York

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