Last week I collaborated in a Group Show at Intermission Gallery on the Caulfield Campus at Monash University . It is a new ground floor gallery space in the recently renovated D Building which is part of the MADA, Monash Art Design and Architecture School.
My piece ” Dress ” was a Wedding Dress found in an Op Shop several years ago. I deconstructed the dress and treated it with a chemical stiffener laundry product sourced after much trial and error and experimentation with various products.
It addresses a narrative tale based on the discovery of my mother’s 1950’s wedding dress I found hidden in a cupboard after my mothers demise to dementia. The dress was in a rather dishevelled state replicating my mothers frail and unravelling health of her later years.
As a homage to this memory I recreated a rather visceral, evocative piece. Her original wedding dress remains in my safe keeping, one of the few tangible possessions I have of my mum and something I will perhaps gift to my three daughters.
The work was hung in a small, seperate room of the gallery, strung by wire from the complicated pipe system overhead. Six small beads from the bodice were placed on the floorboards beneath. A brightly jewelled, delicate chrysalis of a bloodwood sap ball was placed on the wall above.
Spotlit and extended the ” Dress” occupied the gallery area filling the space successfully. Only two of the beads remained at the de-install. Were they collected
or had they attached themselves to the sole of a viewers shoe ?
1. What brought you to Detroit/why did you choose to do your residency here?
The work of my visual practice explores the theme of abandonment in post industrial environments. Detroit was an ideal environment for me to pursue this.
2. Can you describe the focus of your work leading up to Detroit and what impact visiting the city has had on what you produce since?
The focus of my work leading up to Detroit has been addressing the central theme of abandonment in a post industrial environment. I have produced a body of work addressing this through a series of relief prints of the abandoned cockatoo Island Shipyards, NSW. A body of oil paintings, collages, drawings, photgraphs, prints and assemblages addressing the themes of discarded and superceded childrens games, eg Monoploy, of the 1950’s and 60’s, art deco teasets of the 1930’s , 1960’s comics , damaged tin toys , old dolls and outmoded educational aides eg Cuisanair rods.
My work since returning from Detroit focuses on abandonment in post industrial environments. Detroit has many deployed workers. I got to view up close a city decimated by industry closures and its effect on the people. It challenges me to go deeper into the human psyche ie think about the history and the events behind the closures. Presently I am creating a series of paintings based on the blue windows of Fisher Plant no 21, designed by Albert Kahn, blue helped the workers feel positive . It is challenging me to look at the human psyche, and think about production lines in a grid contextual concept.
3. How would you describe the artists’ community in Detroit? And how does it compare to your experiences as an artist in Australia/ other countries you’ve visited?
The artist community in Detroit was alive, embracing , vital, energetic and welcoming. I believe as a community they have lost so much, have hit rock bottom and will come back up. I witnessed great positivity, sharing of time, resources and information .They were an extremely welcoming bunch, from the high end, swanky galleries, right down to the mural and street artists. It was most refreshing as though as a result of their economic downturn, the boundaries have shifted, its a looser community, not so bound by prejudices and social stigmas & class system, they have stripped all barriers away and are more embracive of creative output and prepared to take chances. Why, a fellow artist, Mike Sackey, gave me shoes, a hat, vest, and decals when i had no cash to pay for them at a factory relocation / garage sale.
Melbourne, Australia boasts a more traditional art scene and community with established galleries and local hierarchy, mind set and prejudices. Whilst it is constantly in evolution, there are established protocols, followers of tradition and favouring of certain art schools and promotion of specific artists. As we are a long way from established art centres there is the isolation mindset, combined with the colonial theme of ” are we good enough , compared to Europe “, possibly some negativity and tall poppy syndrome too. It is changing though and more up and coming artists are getting start projects off the ground, funding is becoming available and more money both private and government is being pumped into the arts.
4. Describe what your exhibition focuses on and what kind of reception it received.
It focused on a definitive, personal experience of Detroit whilst I believe still addressing the central theme of my work ie abandonment in a post industrial environment.
“Define Detroit “exhibition was a series of 11 A1 photographic images, both colour and b&w, of the post industrial sites I visited in Detroit, along with found objects found at these sites, assembled underneath eg tin lightshade, piece of wallpaper, empty, rusted letterbox slot and a child’s abandoned watercolour set and drawing. It contained words I had written to describe Detroit.
Building Detritus eg a tin box, copper wiring, pressed metal of a roof.
A series of 9 small watercolour paintings produced enroute whilst travelling around Detroit.Six old 33 1/3 vinyl records found on the side of the road in Detroit, which included motown iconic singers like Diana Ross and Ray Charles.
It was received favourably by most people. Those who know me believe it addresses my work succinctly . As it is housed in display cases in the entrance foyer it gets a reaction as people entering and exiting the large building see it . Some seem puzzled . When I was installing I got six favourable comments, & some puzzled glances but at least it is topical. Three D decals have already been stolen/ souvenired!
My talk went for 10/15 minutes was theatrical. It included removing my sparkly cheer leader skirt bought at a vintage store to reveal my ” detroit-still-exists tshirt dress underneath! I had their attention . Of my 20 or so listeners I was told I exuded passion, knew the artists and all the art I had seen , my memory and attention to detail was exceptional . In short I gave an inspirational talk which totally embraced my art .
Several questions , including, ” did I feel safe ?” were answered adroitly with ,”yes of course , I actually felt more unsafe in NYC.”
5. What would you tell someone who was considering visiting Detroit.
You’ll be surprised with what you will find.
Her creativity, passion, interest, beauty, old& battered facade are inspirational, and the natives couldn’t be more welcoming .
. My mixed media work , entitled, “Luna Park “, was delivered today. I registered and paid the entry fee on line. Although reluctant to enter I was encouraged by a friend who has entered in the past and sold some work. Also as a visual artist I believe it is important to exhibit work , as part of the creation process.
Housed in a beautiful old Victorian mansion, down the quiet end of Acland st, St Kilda, Linden is an innovative gallery space showing ambitious, creative work .
The postcard show will be an eclectic collection of many diverse visual artists work, displayed together, all of uniform size, but of diverse theme and execution.
I,d better go and see how ” Luna Park ” fits in the space, and whether I sell it !
It was big , unwieldy and eminently untransportable . How to get it to VU ? certainly not on a slow moving Sandringham line train . I could just hear the shouts of indignation , and rude expletives as I tried to wedge it sideways onto the commuter train at 8.03 am monday morning .
Nothing for it , it would have to be driven in !! Gasp ! its like ! huge , t he 17 year old learner driver exclaimed as I attempted to secure it to the roof of the car . Not my car , its too small , but the larger other car had to be called into service . Dangling tent guy ropes , old shoelaces , torn rags , any binding agent that I thought would work was used to secure it .
Hmm , didn’t look that big when I first rescued it from the hard rubbish , and skewed it home , hanging out the boot of my car .
A slow procession was made through the sleepy sunday morning streets of Elsternwick . No speeding I exhorted to the hapless driven , or we might become airborne ! A foray into chaotic Kings Way saw us take the outside line , proceeding at a gentle 55 km per hour . I was on tenterhooks as we sometimes accelerated , waiting for the dreaded ripping sound as the canvas left its moorings and pirouetted into the path of the oncoming traffic . Didn’t happen . Town loomed and I exhaled gradually . Stopping in Flinders St I finally breathed and gleefully congratulated my daughter on getting us there intact . Trembling , I unloaded the canvas easing it out of its haphazard bondage , and sauntered into the lift at VU . It was a Sunday , and it would insist on stopping only at the 15th floor . I couldn’t cajole it to go any further despite frantic swiping with my fob . Exiting , I plunged toward the stairwell , and feverishly dragged the enormous canvas up the two flights of stairs to level 17 . Finally , secured in my studio looking resplendent with a coat of gesso , its all ready to go . Now what to do with it !! Watch this space .