Melanie Bonajo (b. 1978)

(Daisy) Last child in the wood

Image from (Daisy) Last child in the wood by Allen & Overy
Year: 2017
Material: Ultra chrome print / Canson Luster in artist’s frame
Dimensions: 110 × 73 cm
Edition: 3/5 + 2 AP

The subtitle Last child in the wood is a direct reference to a 2005 book by American author and journalist Richard Louv. The book became a hit overnight as well as a source of inspiration for a young generation of environmentalists. Louv looked at research focusing on nature-deficit disorder, or the effects on the human psyche of young children or adults when they are deprived of nature. It turns out – and this probably comes as no surprise – that direct exposure to nature is essential for both healthy child development as well as for human physical and emotional health.

Daisy is part of a series of photos entitled Last child in the wood, which Bonajo made in 2017 after being invited to do so by the UNSEEN art fair. The photo comes with an ochre frame, a deliberate choice of the artist who likes to create a certain atmosphere in her work. Each photo in the series has its own colour frame to make the work of art more complete.

An important trigger for the creation of Last child in the wood is that Bonajo, like Louv, finds it alarming that urban dwellers are increasingly distancing themselves from natural processes. We no longer see plants and animals around us. In addition, she is worried by all the rubbish that people leave behind in “nature”: “Nothing authentic will be left before we know it”. Rather than going for the easiest option of buying all costumes and attributes used in the series, Bonajo made these from selected litter.

Bonajo’s colourful and imaginative artistry can’t be separated from her desire to make people think about a different future, which is also clear from this interview excerpt: “Being humans, we collectively determine what the truth is, so we can also change that truth if someone proposes to do so. That is the subject of my work: it is a proposal for a different reality.” These proposals cover a wide range of social issues, from the degradation of the human connection through our craving for technology to the ceaseless erosion of our planet and its consequences for future generations.