• The Loss of the oracle | Ann Shelton
  • The Loss of the oracle | Ann Shelton

Ann Shelton

The Loss of the oracle | Ann Shelton

Regular price $10,500.00

Ann Shelton 

The loss of the oracle (Cornflower, Bluebottle, Hurtsickle, Bachelor’s Buttons, Bluebow, Blue Cap), 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 Knowledge, often held by women, of the healing and spiritual effects of plants has been replaced by a significantly more limited emphasis on their predominantly aesthetic qualities.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)

Edition of 6 plus 2 AP

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The cornflowers in the figure’s hair reference the idiom: “with eyes in the back of her head.” This image alludes to an oracle that can see into the future. Associated with this clairvoyant ability, the cornflower is linked to eyes and to vision. The flower is also the patron flower of Beltane or Mayday and included in many ritual celebrations of the beginning of summer as depicted in films such as “The Wickerman” (1973) and “Midsommer” (2019). Several well-preserved floral collars featuring cornflowers were found in Tutankhamun’s embalming cacheca and date from 1336–1327 B.C.

This image depicts an unidentifiable woman who is the physical presence, in this series, of all wise women. A stand-in of sorts, she represents the re-entry of the figure into Shelton’s practice.