Botanical Drawings

Artwork by Ellen Driscoll

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.