Ardine Nelson

(American, b. 1948; resides in Columbus, OH)

Since 2004, Ardine Nelson has been photographing garden communities in Dresden, Germany for her series Green Spaces. Called Schrebergaertens or Kleingaertens, the side-by-side plots in these communities are owned by the government and leased to residents who live in houses or flats without backyards. Schrebergaertens are named after Dr. Moritz Schreber (1808 - 1861), a German physician who advocated for outdoor spaces that would promote physical activity and produce healthy food for city children and adults. Many of the gardens have been leased to families over many generations and have elaborate recreational spaces, buildings and, in some cases, built in plumbing.

Nelson documents the spaces as a wandering observer, meeting community members and surveying the history of each plot as she goes. Many of her photographs show gardeners surrounded by plants and structures that they have built themselves. She interviews each person that she photographs, and includes a description of the experience in both German and English with each picture. The inscription for the photograph Gardener # 2243 (2008) reads: “He and his wife have had this garden for 50 years. His profession was working with heavy machinery. He spent many summers working in Chile and Argentina. He is now 80 years old.” Other pictures show the gardens through fences, trellises or barriers that have been erected to close off one plot from another. These pictures are taken from the more public pathways in each garden, and emphasize Nelson’s observation that “Each garden is a private paradise defined by a gate.” As a series, the photographs present a shared social experience that is unique to the Schrebergaertens and offer insight into the meaningful role of the spaces in the lives of the people who use them.

Ardine Nelson is a professor of photography at Ohio State University. She completed an MFA in Photography at the University of Iowa City (1972), an MA in Sculpture/Photography at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb (1972), and a BS in Art Education, also from Northern Illinois University (1970). Her works have been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions including a recent one-woman show Green Spaces: Small Garden Communities of Dresden, Germany which was shown at both the Weston Art Gallery at the Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio (2009) and Galerie Kunsthaus Raskolnikow in Dresden, Germany (2009). In 2008, Nelson was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, one of many Grants and Fellowships she has been given over the course of her career. Her works are held in numerous private and public collections including the Polaroid Collection, the Guggenheim Foundation Collection and the Museum of Contemporary Photography’s permanent collection.