Denny Dimin Gallery is pleased to present a new virtual exhibition A Lovers’ Herbal by Ann Shelton from February 4th through April 24th, 2021.  The exhibition features nine new photographs from Shelton’s ongoing series jane says all completed in response to her trip to New York City in 2019.

Shelton’s work is significant in this moment not only of the politicization of women’s health and the #metoo movement, but also in the time of climate change and the coronavirus, when a naturally occurring pathogen is causing worldwide devastation and death. Her work argues that our mismanagement of nature engendered incremental loss of knowledge and understanding that we cannot easily build back, and that continues to pose a danger to human existence.

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Ann Shelton gives us a peek her world in Hahei, New Zealand while discussing the work in “A Lovers’ Herbal.”

 

Ann Shelton

The Mother, Rue (Ruta sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm
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Ann Shelton

The Witch, Penny Royal (Mentha sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm
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These arrangements show the plants contorted into obedience, just as colonization sought to control and claim our natural world and fellow species, and suppress indigenous and women’s botanic expertise. Now, we find ourselves at the brink of irreversible biodiversity loss and climate change, living in the era of the Anthropocene. Shelton’s work provokes us to consider not only humanity’s relentless depletion of the natural world, but the role women will play in a regenerative future.

— Amanda White
White, A. (2019), ‘jane says, an exhibition of works by Ann Shelton’, Journal of New Zealand & Pacific Studies, 7:1, pp. 81–87

In Conversation: Artist Ann Shelton and Critic Claire Voon. Recorded on Thursday, February 11th at 7pm EST.

More Info & Full Recording

Ann Shelton

The Sibyl, Sage (Salvia Sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm

Before coming up with the detailed concept for this work, I had been reading a book by Margaret Sparrow, the trailblazing women’s health activist and founder of Family Planning New Zealand (our equivalent of your Planned Parenthood) on the history of abortion in colonial New Zealand. The book foregrounded colonial women’s experiences and their loss of life, mostly through historical research, obituaries, advertising, police reports, etc. It unpacked and chronicled the concoctions sold for ‘women’s problems’, the risks women took, and the consequences of botched attempts at birth control and abortion through desperate and illegal means. So the thinking around the work comes from and engages body politics and reproductive rights. It is made with this whole area of discourse, legal, experiential, and otherwise, front of mind.

This set off a train of thought that engaged several existing research areas, trauma, violence, a critique of conventional gender positions, and my interest in confounding and complicating contemporary Western culture’s rigid interpretation of what plants are, what they are capable of and what they are for.

— Ann Shelton discussing her research process

Ann Shelton

The Nurse, Opium (Papaver sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm
 

Ann Shelton (b. 1967, New Zealand) is recognised as one of New Zealand’s leading photographic artists. Shelton completed a Master of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia (2001), Vancouver and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (1995) from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University. In 2016 Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki  developed the major mid-career survey exhibition Dark Matter: Ann Shelton curated by Zara Stanhope, which toured to Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu in 2017. Recent exhibitions include an invitation to dance, Photo2021, Melbourne (2021), jane says, Denny Dimin Gallery, New York (2019), Invisible Traces, Espai d’Art Contemporani de Castelló, Spain curated by Mercedes Vicente (2014), in a forest (excerpts), The Australian Center for Photography, Sydney, Australia (2012), Dark Sky at The Adam Art Gallery, Wellington curated by Geoffery Batchen and Tina Barton (2012), Images Recalled (Bilder auf Abruf), Germany, Tobias Berger and Esther Ruelfs (2009), and a way of calling at Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, Melbourne curated by Melissa Keys.

 

Photo of Ann Shelton first published in Art Collector Magazine, Australia, Photo: Bonny Beattie

 

Ann Shelton’s gardens in Hahei, New Zealand.

 
 

The Three Sisters, as Shelton calls them, all feature voluptuous Dinner Plate Peonies and all respond to Shelton’s experience of New York City in 2019 and the recent galvanising American political debates about the exploitation and control of women’s bodies. A first-person encounter with Judy Chicago’s work The Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum, the US-wide dismantling of legislation around abortion rights and the now anthemic Janelle Monae track Pynk all fed into the construction of these three works.  The Party Girl responds to the excitement of opportunity and youth and to the great sense of potential that social exchange can hold but also to how that moment can be exploited or manipulated, The Congress Woman, reflects on the powerful and diverse female senators that were elected to the 116th American Congress in 2019, The Influencer  looks to the Instagram phenomena of the influencer, most notoriously visible perhaps in the Fyre Festival debacle in The Bahamas. More generally these three works reflect on the authority women can have in modelling and articulating their own personal and political power, through the structuring of technological and civic mechanisms circulating around their bodies. Peonies are considered emmenagogic, substances that stimulate or increase menstrual flow. [1]

 

Ann Shelton

The Party Girl, Peony (Paeonia sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm

Ann Shelton

The Congress Woman, Peony (Paeonia sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm
INQUIRE

Ann Shelton

The Influencer, Peony (Paeonia sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm
INQUIRE

Themes in Shelton’s work frequently pivot around aspects of forgotten or suppressed knowledge, instances where female experiences and actions have been overlooked or deemed socially unacceptable or transgressive, or where traumas experienced by women have, through the work, been offered focused attention, and research-engaged investigation.

— Heather Galbraith
Professor and Curator Commissioner Venice Pavillion NZ 2015

The Physical Garden Poster
Published on the occasion of jane says, Denny Dimin Gallery, New York, April 2019.

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The back of the “The Physical Garden Poster” contains excerpts of text from various publications and oral retellings all collected by Ann Shelton during her years of research for this ongoing project.  (Image is only a detail)

 

Ann Shelton

The Super Model, Iris (Iridaceae sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm
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Ann Shelton

The Justice, Willow (Salicaceae sp.), 2020
Pigment print
44 x 33 in/112 x 83.7 cm
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With The Super Model image I was interested in manipulation of the female body, of youth, that veneer and the way that’s become so valued in society. And photography is complicit in that. Photography has played a role in transforming our relationship to what we see; and seeing things has become this central and valued, too valued, aspect of our lives.

— Ann Shelton
 

Ann Shelton working in her studio garage in Hahei, New Zealand.

 
 

“Q&A with Ann Shelton,” in Photo Australia, September 30, 2020. LINK

“jane says, an exhibition of works by Ann Shelton,” by Amanda White, Journal of New Zealand & Pacific Studies, vol 7 no 1, pp. 81–87, 2019. LINK

“Ann Shelton interviewed by Joy Garnett” in evergreen review, 2019. LINK

“Ann Shelton: Close to the Wind,” by Sue Gardiner in Art Collector, issue 90, Oct-Dec 2019. LINK

“This Artist Arranged Botanical Abortifacients Into Stunning Floral Designs for a Timely Show About a Woman’s Right to Control Her Fertility,” by Sarah Cascone in artnet, May 17, 2019. LINK

“Bouquets Highlight Plants Used to Control Women’s Reproductive Health,” by Claire Voon in Hyperallergic, April 10, 2017. LINK

“A conversation with Ann Shelton,” by Casey Carsel and Laura Thompson in Ocula, March 3, 2017. LINK

 

Photography is a bit of a bitch. It has been a willing accomplice in this whole imperialist project. Photography, of course, is imperialist by its very nature, tied to colonising and capitalist technological development. But photography can also be used against imperialist ideology. It has an agency and a power that does not necessarily come from where you would expect, and it can be wielded in unique and emancipatory ways.

— Ann Shelton
Interviewed by Joy Garnett

Inquire about work by Ann Shelton

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[1] The root of Chinese peony has been used for over 1,500 years in Chinese medicine. It is known most widely as one of the herbs used to make ‘Four Things Soup’, a woman’s tonic, and it is also a remedy for gynaecological problems and for cramp, pain and giddiness [254]. When the whole root is harvested it is called Chi Shao Yao, if the bark is removed during preparation then it is called Bai Shao Yao [250]. The root is alterative, analgesic, anodyne, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hypotensive, nervine and tonic [176, 218, 238, 279].

 
 

EXHIBITION PRESS

 

'A Lovers' Herbal' Reviewed by Wendy Vogel for Artforum

Read on Artforum

'Ann Shelton’s Strange Flowers Set the Stage' by Katie White for Contemporary Hum

Read on Contemporary Hum
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