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The Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Cootha are promoted as 'living museums', where the Brisbane City Council provides "52 acres of subtly changing displays covering the great diversity of the Earth's flora". As artist-in-residence at the Gardens, Caselle Mountford could not have sited her installation Autumn, one of a series of 'three sacred groves" titled Allegory of the Seasons, in a more appropriate setting.
In this intriguing installation, the artist fashioned life-size sculptures using basketry techniques and drew on an ancient myth to examine the cyclical nature of the seasons. Set in the Demonstration Gardens, with the Primitive Gardens creating a dramatic backdrop for the narrative, the myth being symbolically portrayed in the three installations will represent the story of Demeter and Persephone.
This first installation depicted the abduction of Persephone and her descent into the Underworld. Persephone, the grain corn maiden and the virgin component of Demeter, wandered away from her ever watchful mother, irresistibly drawn by the intoxicating hundred- bloomed narcissus. She was abducted by Pluto, God of the Underworld, who later tempted her into eating pomegranate seeds-the symbol of sexual consummation. Persephone is thus fated to spend half the year in the underworld and the other half on the earth-resulting in the time of fallow and the time of mellow fruitfulness, hence the seasons as we know them.
The artist used found and natural materials from the Gardens to construct her narrative. Employing a blue cypress tree and two Cuban Pines planted in triangular mode as points of reference, the woven sculptures representing the three components of Demeter (Mother/Daughter/Crone) were also arranged within this symbolic format. The boat that carried Persephone across the river Styx and the hundred petalled narcissus flower were sited within the parameters of this space.
Natural materials found in the Gardens and used to present the myth included- Royal Palm sheaths (boat), the flower spike of the Dwarf Date Palm and Yellow Latan Palm (narcissus, flowers) , pine cones and Toddy Palm (Demeter), ornamental corn, Toddy Palm and gourd (Persephone ), Coral Tree seeds, Toddy Palm and chicken bones (Hecate).
Each of the components of Allegory of the Seasons will be presented at different sites in the Botanic Gardens. The artist's second and third installations will complete the interpretation of the myth and are planned to coincide with the Winter Solstice (Hibernation) and the Spring Equinox(Rebirth).