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Fantastical fungi circle up in Amy Ross’s new “Fairy Ring”.

Fairy Ring by Amy Ross
8"x10" ($35) | 11"x14" ($75) | 16"x20" ($260) | 24"x30" ($1350)


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An Amy Ross fungi fête is the sorta party we’ll always RSVP to. Today’s new addition to our assortment of the Boston-based artist’s amazing collage work is a bewitching Fairy Ring of anthropomorphized mushrooms. We spy morel, fly agaric, chanterelle, oyster, maybe a turkey tail—a colorful mixed bag of ambulatory toadstools, mid circle dance. But you don’t need to be a hardcore fungi fan to appreciate Fairy Ring's revelry. It’s a celebration of nature that adds a festive earthiness (and a scientific edge) to any art collection.

Beyond the longtime love of nature, foraging, and forests that infuses her work, Ross also has a history in theological education, having earned a Master’s from Harvard Divinity School before studying art at Tufts. This experience permeates her art practice.

My work as an artist has long been informed by my background in religious studies, particularly my abiding interest in folklore and mythology. I am drawn to stories that have emerged over time to provide explanations for the phenomena of the natural world, and I create works on paper that interpret, illustrate, and expand on these non-scientific hypotheses.

To represent the more fantastical side of the story, she creates what she calls “hybrid creatures”—composites of human bodies and natural miscellany. Collage is perhaps the perfect medium for exercising her amalgams, allowing her to move cut elements about freely until she identifies a fit that feels harmonious. (Follow her on Instagram for a frequent serving of her delightfully curious commixtures.) Her artmaking process involves, in her own words, “a little bit of magic.” That magic’s definitely at play in pieces like Fairy Ring, wonderfully weird and enchantingly beautiful.

Fairy Ring’s supernatural also incorporates some science. As a nature buff, Ross is no stranger to science. A few years ago, she exhibited in a fascinating group show very much at the intersection of art and science—Edge of Life: Forest Pathology Art at the Stephen F. Austin State University art gallery. Each artist was assigned a forest pathogen and asked to produce work inspired by it. Ross’s assignment? Fairy Rings, of course. The curator—artist and SFA professor Michelle Rozic—described the phenomenon in the accompanying show catalog (you can scoop up the book here).

[T]he Fairy Ring is a naturally occurring circle of mushrooms growing up to 30 feet in diameter. Some in France are 2,000 feet in diameter and over 700 years old. Fairy Rings are detected by sporocarps (mushrooms) growing in rings or arcs in forested areas or in grasslands. Fairy Rings grow from underground mycella that connect to the fruiting bodies (mushrooms). Necrotic growth occurs in the Fairy Ring growth areas.

Actually a sign of disease characterized by dead plant matter, the "Fairy Ring" gets its name from European mythology, which explains the rings of bare earth or mushrooms as the result of moonlit circle dances performed by fairies or elves. Ross’s Fairy Ring leans into this lore, looking at the pathogen “through the lens of story and imagination”, and in doing so makes us reconsider our relationship to death and decay. Forest pathogens like mushrooms might cause harm, but they can also be beneficial, breaking down the nutrients in old life so new life can flourish. Amy Ross’s leggy, dancing fungi? They’ve got life for days.

Tags: new art