An Artist’s Photographic Meditations on Magic and Motherhood

View Frances F. Denny’s collection “Spellwork” through December 23, 2023.

Article by Elissa Suh

09-TMAG-HUDSON-VALLEY-BOOKSHOP-2Left: Frances F. Denny’s “Dark Memories of Whence She Came (Hellebore, Anemone, Fritillaria)" (2023). Right: Denny’s " My Love Is Poured Upon the Earth (Bleeding Heart)” (2023). © Frances F. Denny, courtesy of the artist.

The New York-based artist Frances F. Denny once considered “magic” an empty word, relevant only in fiction and fairy tales. “It felt a lot like bibbidi-bobbidi-boo,” she says. It wasn’t until Denny spent time alongside modern-day witches, photographing them for what eventually became her 2020 book, “Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America,” that the term began to gain real-world resonance for her. Starhawk, one of her subjects, described magic as “the art of changing consciousness at will,” spurring Denny to think about how that might work in her own practice. The result is “Spellwork,” a collection of floral still lifes on view at the Manhattan gallery Clamp starting Nov. 9. In each image, the stillness of daffodils, nasturtium and other blooms is interrupted by iridescent traces of plastic childhood accessories sourced from Denny’s daughter’s playroom: beaded bracelets and birthday candles, star-shaped wands and glitter bouncy balls. Plastic is “the inevitable material of parenthood,” says Denny. “It’s both a container and a shield.” Tying back to the project’s origins, the titles of each piece in “Spellwork” borrow from rituals and incantations in Starhawk’s book, “The Spiral Dance.” Spellwork is on view through Dec. 23,