In Ellen Driscoll’s recent work, plants are drawn into allegorical tableaux that speak to environmental change and adaptation. Some of the plants in her herbarium are used for remediation of toxins in soil, such as the sunflower which is used to revive radioactive earth, or grevillia used to extract heavy metals in strip mines. Other plants she draws are growing wild in empty lots or clinging to abandoned buildings, and thrive as uncultivated “volunteers” at the margins of the built environment. Using walnut ink that is removed to create a kind of “ghost” image, the brown ink in the drawings creates a surface that shows the historic trace of the ink’s initial flow while also evoking the color of parched earth. Black windows cut into the surface of the paper create the illusion of a dark space without measurable dimension, behind the picture plane, blurring the boundary of indoors and outdoors. These illusionistic spaces are a contemporary homage to the ancient wall paintings of Pompeii and Rome, also created during a time of increased population and deforestation.
Siena Art Institute Fall Project Residency DrawingsThis new series of drawings continue the exploration begun in the “Soundings” exhibition with Margaret Cogswell at Kentler International Drawing Space. Based on “volunteer” plants in sites like the Siena train station and the medieval walls, as well as those in the Botanical Garden, the drawings explore visual oscillation between indoor and outdoor space, ideas of cross-pollination between indigenous and non-indigenous species.
This series of drawings is based on observation of the weeds and “volunteer” plants coming up through the cracks of Red Hook, Brooklyn, the urban birds–pigeons, sparrows, and starlings, and other aspects of the local visual environment—pennants at a ball field, empty signs, a satellite dish. There are also maps of present and historical Red Hook, and Shenzhen and Guangzhu, two of the largest cities in China, our biggest trading partner–because Red Hook is also a port. The drawings pay homage to the ancient wall paintings of Pompeii and Rome, created at a time when deforestation was rampant, and idealized views of nature came indoors, complete with painted windows and doors, creating vistas into an idealized exterior. Made with walnut and sumi ink , and using a process in which the walnut ink is removed with water to create a kind of ghost image, their architectural size brings the outdoors to the indoors inside the gallery.
All photos are by Etienne Frossard.