It’s week 12 of my 3 month intensive residency in my studio. My first solo art exhibition, Wild, is on right now in Cowra Regional Art Gallery until Sunday 24 April 2016. If you are thinking of heading there, please do. With more than 100 people present at the opening, the Director, Brian Langer, Gallery staff and volunteers did an absolutely awesome job. Many thanks also to Tracey Callinan, Executive Officer, Arts Outwest who opened Wild so well. If you made the trek there I hope it was worthwhile. This opening was a terrific experience for me for many reasons, I felt very grateful and very much in the moment. Here’s the gist of my speech …
‘I would like to say some thanks and tell a quick story too
I am here with this exhibition (my first solo show) because of an amazing opportunity I have been afforded through winning the 2015 Central West Regional Art Award. Thank you to the Judge of last year’s award Andrew Frost, thank you to the patron of that award David Henley and Thank you to Brian Langer, Director of Cowra Regional Art Gallery for making this happen. It is a big moment in my life. I realise having, a first time solo exhibitor, a wild card to manage is no mean feat – thank you Brian for your patience, for looking after me and for answering all those many questions. Also thank you for your terrific curating of the Wilkins Collection, A Survey in the rest of the Gallery. Having my first solo show here at the same time as this Survey is meaningful for me – not just because Brian has curated a terrific exhibition focusing on landscape and figurative works that quite work with my work.
It feels like one of life’s coincidences. Many many years ago as a 17 year old stepping out into life’s path, how I made my decision of whether to follow those romanticised thoughts in my head of becoming an artist (and to study fine arts at uni) or equally romantic - save the world through looking after national parks (and go to uni to study science) I made this decision based on whether I got into Art Express or not. Although I did well, I didn’t make the cut.
So instead, I opted for Macquarie University. But that was lucky for me, as it was there that, that other romantised ideal I had of life – a life partner, came to fruition. Whilst still a teenager, I met my very own man of maths. Mark Robertson - thank you for all your support, for sharing your life with me and for coming along on this tangentful ride with me. But really at the time I think I wasn’t quite formed enough to handle putting myself out there – in the art world of all places, and so I have had many years to think about and practice and refine my art at my own pace without external pressure.
So here – my work has arrived.
To put on a show like this there are many who have put in.
Thank you to everyone here at Cowra Regional Art Gallery, Jacque Perry, your warmth and spark is gold and to all the volunteers behind the scenes, I am so grateful. To John and Helen Daly who I spent a whole day with earlier in the week hanging the show. You really are the Dream Team.
To Tracy Sorensen, who has given much much more than just writing the Wild catalogue essay. Thanks for being so full of life and generosity and realness.
To Tracey Callinan, of the terrific body that is Arts Outwest – I feel an incredible privilege having you open this exhibition.
To Kiata Mason, my cousin – for your critical eye, your encouragement and for just being here and helping – thank you and please go now and finish your masters.
Of doing the work – you may notice that there are some people painted in this show. Of the two big ones - to Dave and Sharon my work colleagues who sat for me. Thank you Sharon for sharing your Wiradjuri language with me that day and many days, and then sharing your family with me – the other day and many days. I loved going through Stan Grants Wiradjuri Dictionary with you. To Dave, thank you for just sitting still and letting me study you so closely and also for sharing Jules with me. You were so good having us both check out all those colours and lines and bits that make your face you. I hope I have been able to capture just a little bit of you both, you Dave and you Sharon. I’m so glad that you could both come today and bring your mums along as well – and I’m chuffed that my mum is here too.
To my children and their friends – my little wild ones. I paint you because I love you, I can’t really think of anything more interesting or beautiful to paint.
To my friends, my work colleagues, my extended family, my manager, your support is awesome. To each of my exceptionally supportive artist buddies at the Artist Run Initiative –t.arts Gallery in Bathurst – what a great community you are. To everyone who jumped on the bus and those that made their own way here, I know all our lives are so busy so I am really grateful and acknowledge and say thank you to each and every one of you. And those wonderful people of Cowra who I am just meeting today – I am absolutely thrilled that you have come along too.
So to finish off I just want to let you know why I have titled this exhibition Wild. What does it all mean? Well I’m happy for you to see and think whatever you want. And if along the way, you think about some Wiradjuri language then that’s great. If this exhibition has introduced you to the eastern quoll (Mabi) then that’s all good too.
And of the little red bag you’re welcome to see anything in it too. For me it is symbolic, it is about my life – each day I think “which bag do I take today?” but more than that when painting the little red bag, I was thinking about the status of our rare and threatened animals, the signs that they leave in the bush and can they come back or are they lost from our landscape for good.
I’ve been fortunate to have worked in the wild industry that is conservation management and have worked with not only rare and threatened species, but some awesome wild workers to.
For me this show is also wild because it’s got my kids in it. I feel really fortunate to be part of their lives.
But lastly it is wild because not only is it about my life, my kids, the people I work with, the work I have done, but it is wild because in this art world that I am edging on the periphery of, this show right now (my first solo show, without me having a fine art degree), is a wild card.
Thanks so much for coming, thanks so much for supporting Cowra Regional Art Gallery, this Wild exhibition and me.
I hope you get something out it.’