What does it mean for an artist to be shown in a public art gallery?
Last Friday night, I picked mum and dad up at the Goulburn South Caravan Park and drove them to the Goulburn Workers Club for a quick drink. We settled into a fancy booth that looked out across Auburn Street, where locals were doing mainies.
As I came back from the bar with a tray of drinks, my partner's wildly gesticulating arms collected with the tray, I overcorrected and the drinks flooded across the table in a crazy gin-tonic-red-white-wine deluge.
My childhood superstitions kicked in and I thought it was an omen for the night ahead, a crazy washed-out disaster.
After that, we walked a block to the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery for the opening of Coarse Stories, my first institutional show in a public gallery with some of my favourite Australian artists. I couldn't believe I was there in a show alongside the likes of Ian Abdullah, Catherine Clayton-Smith, Nick Collerson, Joe Frost, Prue Hazelgrove, Phil James, Kate Mitchell, Esther Stewart and Darren Sylvester.
Having mum and dad with me and my husband on my arm as we walked into the gallery felt serene. With a glass of wine in hand, I walked with mum and dad through the show and listened to their interpretations of the work.
I loved their unguarded critiques 'That baby looks like a box'; 'That kitchen isn't part of the show, is it?' ; 'This work should be called chubby chocks'. My parents were my anchor and it was a joy to share this moment with them.
I realised then that ever since I was a kid, my parents never thwarted my creativity. As I cut out shapes and plastered them on my bedroom wall, they never told me to put down the Perkins Paste. It was only when I started slapping collage on the walls of the hallway, that they guided me back to my bedroom walls.
When my brothers were out in the paddocks spreading fertiliser or herding cattle, 'Leave him alone, he's drawing' often protected me from the rigours of farm life.
Later in high school, as I sewed my own clothes and wore them to school, I was never stopped. Mum and dad never said 'maybe you shouldn't wear that tuxedo-jumpsuit to the village Christmas carnival'.
It's those moments that have led me to this - being part of a show with great Australian artists. So the feelings I expected to feel being part of this show in an art museum is not at all what I thought. There were no nerves, no anxiety, no questioning about why I am here. Instead, there was a great thankfulness for the support that has led me to this place.
'Coarse Stories' is an engagement with ten artists whose work moved through spaces, gathering the experience of their physical, ideological, interior and exterior facets over time. These artists share an awareness of the space they themselves inhabit and too, the space they re-posit in their work. Each is a negotiation of human existence today and explored within the process of a practice (making) and without doubt, living (being). Not one of these artists is limited by their medium, be it canvas, costume, performance or installation rather their work defies finitude through the complex matrix that makes them individual and unique. Like the fierce wind that strikes the streets of Goulburn each Spring, 'Coarse Stories' has swept up many moments from different places, inside n out, kicked each along to gather momentum and settled them down here together.
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