• Once upon a time forest floor | Ann Shelton
  • Once upon a time forest floor | Ann Shelton

Ann Shelton

Once upon a time forest floor | Ann Shelton

Regular price $10,500.00

Ann Shelton

Once upon a time forest floor (Elder, Black Elder, Boor Tree, Elderberry, Elder Bush, Pipe Tree, European Elderberry, Bour Tree, Hylder, Hylantree, Eldrum, Hollunder, Su- reau, Hildemoer, Lady Ellhorn, Sweet Elder)

'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 Knowledge, often held by women, of the healing and spiritual effects of plants has been replaced by a significantly more limited emphasis on their predominantly aesthetic qualities.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)

Edition of 6 plus 2 AP

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Elder is a fascinating and old tree steeped in pre-Christian folklore and tradition regarding communing with those on the “other side” and with goddesses, and witches themselves. The wood itself is sacred and forbidden to be burned in some cultures and the plant has many medicinal uses. The work is intentionally structured as a heap or assemblage using stones, moss, ferns, leaves, and white elderflowers. The barely visible horizon line refers to the darkness of the woods connecting this image to the dark forest floor compositions of Rachel Ruysch (3 June 1664 – 12 October 1750), a Dutch still-life painter and leading protagonist of this European genre who was internationally famous during her lifetime. 

Once upon a Time, forest floor… references her work, A 'Forest Floor' Still Life of Flowers circa 1650, and embodies a discussion around the critical reception of flower paintings, seen perhaps as oversentimental and yet crucially a site of significant cultural, social, and political meaning.