• On certain days and nights she anoints a staff and rides | Ann Shelton
  • On certain days and nights she anoints a staff and rides | Ann Shelton

Ann Shelton

On certain days and nights she anoints a staff and rides | Ann Shelton

Regular price $10,500.00

Ann Shelton

On certain days or nights she anoints a staff and rides (Brugmansia, Angels Trum-pet, Snowy Angel’s Trumpet, Angel's Tears, Datura [misleading]). 2022-ongoing

'i am an old phenomenon' 

Systems of belief concerning the medicinal, magical and spiritual uses of plant materials were well established in the lives of European forest, nomadic and ancient peoples. However, these beliefs were forcibly supplanted as pagan practices were displaced across Europe and other continents in the wake of Christianity and the rise of capitalism. The consequences of the suppression and attempted erasure of this plant-based belief system continue to be profound. Knowledge, often held by women, of the healing and spiritual effects of plants has been replaced by a significantly more limited emphasis on their predominantly aesthetic qualities. This separation informs our contemporary relationship to plants as being primarily one of commodification.

The images in 'i am an old phenomenon' are part of the re-assemblage of fragments of this old knowledge and, in their ontology, invoke the persecution of wise women, witches, and wortcunners who kept this knowledge safe but whose understanding of plants and their connection with reproduction, in particular, represented a threat to the new order. All the plant sculptures photographed are constructed by the artist who has always been interested in the history of floral art and its expansive gendered resonances having worked with plants since childhood.

Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Bamboo 

Artwork: 44 1/8 x 33 1/8 in (112 x 84 cm)

Framed: 45 5/8 x 34 5/8 x 2 1/4 in (116 x 88 x 5 cm)


This work references witches’ ointments or “flying ointments” believed to be made from plants containing powerful alkaloids, which were applied to the labia and to other parts of the body as part of rituals. It is understood that the ointments produced a bodily experience of flying. The Brugmansia plant is, of course, arranged as a witch’s broom poised and ready to take flight. The title for this work is taken from fifteenth-century records of Jordanes de Bergamo.

“In rifling the closet of the ladies, they found a pipe of ointment, wherewith she greased a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin.”     - 1324 investigation of the alleged witch Lady Alice Kyteler, in Murder, Magic and Medicine by John Mann.

This work and other images in the exhibition feature suspended plant material referencing the phenomenon of the flying witch and the practice of hanging, a means by which women accused of witchcraft were executed. Visually these images attempt to connect us to historical focal points in a timeline of the encroachment of women’s authorship to moments that highlight and signal the subjection of women’s gender roles and physical bodies.