The selection of materials for ‘Respect This Place (After Uncle Laddie)’ 2022 communicate my personal response to the Halloran collection (HC). As a local woman growing up in Vincentia, like my mother before me, I have a deep sense of belonging to this place shared with Aboriginal friends and mentors. A significant mentor, Uncle Laddie, gifted me the pipeclay featured in this artwork and his words and handwriting ‘respect this place’ inspired the work and feature on an object in JBMM. This work pays tribute to Laddie’s lifelong work as a cross-cultural teacher and activist based at JBMM.
The paper support was soaked and stained c.10 years ago in the billabong near my childhood home. It is a place frequented by both my mother and her brothers and my siblings and I as children. I feel the presence of my ancestral spirits here. My grandparents, Keith and Gloria Sheehy purchased land from Warren Halloran in c.1955 across from the creek that feeds this billabong. The HC features maps recording Warren’s ownership and sale of the land that created Vincentia village. I chose to represent the instruments of nautical navigation and terrestrial surveying in the HC, as they are symbols of the colonisation and subsequent land sales in Vincentia.
In the Shoalhaven, colonisation began with Alexander Berry pictured in ‘Respect This Place’ using his sextant from the HC. His body merges with the graphometer to become the instrument of colonisation. His words ‘For many years I have reaped my harvest’ also feature in JBMM. Opposing Berry is a stylised representation of an Aboriginal hunter inscribed on a whale tooth from the HC. Cupping the graphometer on the left is a drawing of the breast plate worn by ‘Budd Billy’, who also featured in the JBMM photograph of a local corroboree pictured.
My work Day and Night is a finalist in the NOW prize.
Day and Night (Autumn Cockatoo and Flying Fox) 2011/2019. Cockatoo, flying fox, silk stitch, bitumen, oil, caput mortuum, pipeclay and rabbit skin glue on canvas. 101 x 162 cm. $3272.
Road boundaries kill animals, like this flying fox and white cockatoo in Canberra 2011. I dissolve the boundary between animal subject and art object by placing decomposing animals on canvas to infest the weave. After documenting their disintegrated remains, I steep the rancid cloth in vinegar and hang it in the elements to cure before stretching onto a wooden frame. I seal the evocative bodily stain or shroud with hot rabbit skin glue and spend weeks, months, or years, in its presence. In 2019, I felt drawn to this shroud and its accompanying photographs of decayed subjects, my two younger children running in a field, their loyal father in his cowboy hat, and two white cockatoos watching from dead trees in the dry Monaro. I apply the bitumen and oil of Europeans to depict the dead creatures, and sacred pipeclay given by a recently deceased Aboriginal mentor negotiates the ground.
Darren and I set up an array of creatures this morning amidst the mozzies and heat, some of which were given to me by a friend Danny who was taught taxidermy by my father years ago. There were lots of surprises, a micro bat and what looks to be a Cuckoo amid my collection of ringtail, mouse, leather jacket, starfish, wonga pigeon and the crowning glory, a Southern Boobook owl with wings outstretched.