An iron fragment with an aged patina. Corrugated metal from an old cabin. Moss-covered wood. Stained fabric brought back to life. Dried plants arranged in collages. Weathered rocks and shells. Driftwood. Discarded glassware. A toddler’s faded overalls.

These are all items that have found a new purpose in life as beautiful works of art by local artist and horticulturalist Diane Relf, and they are on display both inside and outside the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) through Dec. 9. Sponsored by the school’s Creativity in Healthcare Education Program, the show is titled, “Reimagine, Reinvent, and Recreate.” The exhibit’s opening reception will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the school at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke. More information about the show, accommodations, and reception registration appear here.

In addition to being the feature artist in this special exhibition, Relf also served as the co-curator, inviting several of her talented friends to display their works as well. Each of the additional 13 local and regional artists brings their own creative genius to the show. Keeping within Relf’s vision for the show, each piece in the exhibit features some sort of discarded treasure that has been transformed into a beautiful work of art.

“My art is about finding discarded objects and manipulating them to explore their potential; then combining these new objects into statements of appreciation of the mundane,” Relf said. “It questions the validity of a throwaway society and the value of always needing new.” Relf calls her work eARTh, a focus on the earth with art at the center.

As a lifelong gardener and horticulturalist, Relf followed her first love of gardening as a profession. As a faculty member in Virginia Tech’s Department of Horticulture, Relf served as a state Extension Specialist and developed the master gardener program in Virginia. She pursued horticulture as a therapeutic tool long before it was popularized and co-founded the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

Relf says she has had a long love affair with rust over the years and has explored using it in many forms in her art. Her first solo show “All about Rust,” was held in 2010.

“Art is about having fun by creating,” she said. “Experimenting with new materials and techniques and making things up as I go are essential elements for me.”

“We are thrilled to have Diane as the feature artist and co-curator of this unusual exhibit,” said Dave Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture. “She is an acclaimed artist as are the individuals she invited to showcase their work. Each artist has worked their special magic on different discarded items to produce something new and beautiful from something formerly overlooked or forgotten. There is a lot of symbolic meaning in the show.” 

Relf said art, like gardening, is part of being a human and a creator and that everyone is inherently an artist and a gardener.

“My two passions combine well to support my goal of using art and gardening as creative expressions of love of the environment and enhancing quality of life,” Relf said.

Relf will donate any proceeds from the sale of her art to Doctors without Borders, an international organization that cares for people affected by conflict, disease outbreaks, natural and human-made disasters, and exclusion from health care.

VTCSOM is open for viewing the exhibit each weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Additional tour times and group tours are available by appointment by contacting Courtney Powell at 540-526-2588 or


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