Words: Sue Gardiner, Photography: Bonnie Beattie
Art Collector Magazine
A new exhibition by one of New Zealand’s most lauded lens-based practitioners Ann Shelton explores female experiences of representation, control, fertility and trauma.
The politics of the body is currently coalescing around social control of women’s reproductive health. Here in New Zealand and Australia, progressing abortion decriminalisation bills have led to fresh and often raw debates while in the USA, several states have passed or are proposing to pass what are known as Heartbeat Bills, a controversial form of abortion restriction legislation.
New Zealand artist Ann Shelton’s work has long focussed on female experiences around trauma and control. Having directly experienced the debates in Trump’s America during two exhibitions of her photographic and performative work with Denny Dimin Gallery in New York (2019) and San Francisco (2018), Shelton reflects on how little has really changed for women. “The law is still stretching out to control women’s bodies,” she says. “In some ways we have come a long way and in others we have not come far at all.”
Now, in close to the wind, presented at Auckland’s Two Rooms in September and October, Shelton presents selected works from 2001 to 2019 that trace how female experiences and actions have been overlooked, forgotten, suppressed or deemed socially unacceptable or transgressive. The exhibition planning took an interesting turn when Shelton began a conversation with Wellington-based academic and curator, Heather Galbraith. Together, they discussed the absence of the depicted female body in Shelton’s work. Or more specifically, her strategy of exploring instances of charged and troubling female lived experience through depictions of landscapes and sites of events or trauma, and her use of allegorical botanic still life set-ups.
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