Welcome to Ann Wood’s garden. Over the past four years, Wood has made more than 200 botanical items out of paper and other mixed media for a giant installation that lived on a 30-foot wall in her northeast Minneapolis studio. In March 2020, the wall was disassembled, shipped to Europe, and re-assembled at the Kunstmuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands for an exhibition called Royal Blue, alongside Delftware flower vases and earthenware from the late-17th century.
Wood hopes the international exhibit will be a launching point for her wall. Showing it around the world was one of her big dreams when she started documenting the project on Instagram four years ago. Her @woodlucker account now has 128,000 followers.
A professional artist for the past 30 years, Wood embarked on her paper-meets-flora body of work after she and her partner in art, business, and life, Dean Lucker, went through a decade of family losses. Needing something joyful in her life, she began dissecting plants, flowers, and fruit that she retrieved from her garden, transforming them into whimsical and lifelike creations. Sharing these pieces on social media in turn helped Wood find relief from grief.
“I started on Instagram during the time that my father was passing away and very ill,” she says. “He pointed out the beauty of the natural world, particularly the sumac plants, in his last days of his life. When you go through a major transition like that, of losing both of your parents—it really demands you to take a look at what you’re doing and change things.”
Born and raised in central Iowa, Wood’s love of nature is one of the reasons she now lives close to the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul—a solace of living things that helps her get through Minnesota winters. She has won many art grants and awards, and, since Wood’s mixed-media botanicals have been embraced online, national publications like Martha Stewart Living and Breathe Magazine have featured her latest work. She doesn’t consider floristry to be part of her output, though.
“Honestly I don’t have any interest in floral arranging,” she says. “I’m interested in making a really big statement about one woman. Why would someone do this? That’s kind of what people think. There’s a capturing of the moment, of the fleetingness of time, I think, in the work, and that’s really part of my intentions. It’s not to make bouquets.”
Minnesota Monthly: How did you get started with the wall collection?
Ann Wood: I started on Instagram during the time that my father was passing away and very ill. He pointed out the beauty of the natural world, particularly the sumac plants, in his last days of his life. When you go through a major transition like that, of losing both of your parents—it really demands you to take a look at what you’re doing and change things.
Do you feel that Instagram changes your work itself, or just how you present it?
Probably some of both. Probably for good and bad. Everything you do has context around it. Writing a grant has context, a gallery show has context, a sale at a museum shop has context. So, it’s just another frame of context that requires being smart about what it is that you are wanting to put out there.
I also have a degree in photography that I never used. I went to a tech school in Iowa, and other than documenting my own work, I’ve never worked as a stylist or a photographer as an adult. I went right on to art school after photo school, and I’ve kind of enjoyed doubling back on some of those skills and enjoyed seeing if I can come up with interesting pictures. I’ve always loved print magazines, and collected them as a teenager. Magazines were my way out in the ’70s—to see that the world was a bigger place. I see Instagram as an opportunity for me to visualize making my own magazine.
How long does it take you to make one object?
It depends. It can take anywhere from three days to 10 days to make one object.
What are some of the materials you use?
I use handmade paper that I buy from Wet Paint, and I use a variety of weights of paper, from super thin tissue to harder, card-stock sort of weight. Then I dye the colors to match the color of what I’ll be making with the specific object. There’s wire structures on the inside, and some of them have carved wood inside, too, to hold the structure. Then I will paint and draw on them as they evolve.
What kind of dye do you use?
Paint. Just watering paint down and flooding the paper with a fluid water will dye the paper all the way through. Most paper floral artists use crêpe paper, and my work is different because crêpe paper is just a different texture than what I do.