The exhibition sets up conversations between selected works by Ann Shelton (from the period 2001 to 2019), and 19th century historical vernacular photography from a private collection, in order to identify and attend to certain omissions and presences.
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.
Shelton's works presented here, tap into a range of urgent societal concerns and tensions, prioritising female experiences and narratives; including access to abortion, fertility and women's relationships to crime. The title of the exhibition alludes to the idiom of 'sailing too close to the wind', where an individual and/or action is on the verge of something illegal or improper, or when a scenario includes a key agent or character who has intentionally or unknowingly moved towards implied danger or precarity. In its truncated form, 'close to the wind' could also extend more towards a feeling of being subject to, or operating in close proximity, to extreme and disruptive forces.
These contemporary art works not only centre female experiences of subjugation, abuse, and suspicion, but also in some cases, of being judged by society as aberrant or unacceptable, such as in the case of 'baby farmer' Minnie Dean, the only woman tried and executed, in 1895, in Aotearoa New Zealand for murdering babies in her care. These works of Shelton's typically do not feature a figurative representation of the subject. The protagonist is physically absent, or unseeable. Instead they explore modes such as allegorical still life, or conceptual approaches to landscape, or material culture traces.
Press release courtesy Two Rooms.