Posts Tagged ‘destiny

31
Jan
21

Review: ‘DESTINY’ at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2020 – 14th February 2021

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

“There is no excuse for ignorance, and you should make an effort to understand what happens in our world. How else can you be contemporary?”

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Destiny Deacon

 

 

Embodied Ab/origin

This is a strong, powerful if rather repetitive exhibition by Destiny Deacon at NGV Australia, Melbourne. It’s like being hit over the head with a blakly ironic blunt object many times over, just like Aboriginal people have had both physical and cultural violence enacted upon them many times over since the arrival of the white man in terra nullius, a misnomer if ever there was one.

“Drawing from her vast collection of Aboriginalia, Deacon interrogates the way in which Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, misrepresented within popular culture.” Aboriginalia is repurposed “historicised, interpreted and recast through Aboriginal eyes”, especially through the use of white-appropriated and conceptualised Blak dolly models that allegedly “possess a liveliness and personality, making the violence enacted on to them all the more confronting.” Deacon photographs her reclaimed dollies using Polaroids from which colour prints are enlarged. Technically and aesthetically this means the photographs loose the uniqueness, size and aura of a Polaroid, perhaps not the best outcome for the use of the instant photography process in the making of memorable images.

The exhibition never strays far from its theme: that whities will never understand the symbols of racism perpetrated against Blaks embedded in white culture, unless they are pointed out to them. This concept is expressed through the silent voice of the archetypal Blak doll – dis/embodied, headless, amputated, tied up, trapped in a blizzard, over the fence, adopted – inserted placelessly into whatever scenario bigotry and racism rears its head, a snatched headline of dispossession and grief. While the Blak dolls are a paradigm that Deacon uses to represent the “collective lives” of Aborigines under the heal of a repressive regime, no idea is ever investigated fully for the viewer is only given a snippet of information. Holistically, these snippets add up to a terrible indictment of a dominant race lording it over a vanquished one.

“Marcia Langton once described Destiny Deacon’s work as a ‘barometer of postcolonial anxiety’.” Personally, I don’t feel any sense of postcolonial anxiety when I look at Deacon’s work. I just feel sad, very sad and guilty. Sad for the invasion, sad and guilty for the lives lost, dispossession, poor health, shorter life spans, racism and inequality, the ongoing discrimination and neglect. It’s like sticking the knife in over and over again. I so wish it was different. We KNOW, if we are informed sentient beings, the injustices that Aboriginal people suffered and continue to suffer. As Deacon says, there is no excuse for ignorance. But this is preaching to the converted. How many Joe Public will come and see this exhibition to be informed and to change their mind? As a friend of mine succinctly said, “Don’t come to this exhibition if you don’t want your racism challenged.” Many will not bother. For others this will be a confronting exhibition. And in all this reclaiming of Aboriginalia, all this confrontation, all this looking back, the dredging up of every little inequality – it leaves me thinking: what is the future, where is the positiveness, where is the forward looking cultural creativity of a great people?

I believe that this contemporary reconceptualisation of history from a singular standpoint – that of a unified Ab/original people represented by Blak dolly – is pure hokum. Aboriginal culture is made up of many mobs, many voices, reflecting the difference in backgrounds and experiences of different communities which come together in diversity to present “a statement about the unity of Aboriginal people, the defiant continuity of their cultural traditions and the personal search of many individual artists for their own Aboriginal identity.”1 In this exhibition, where are the homosexual Aboriginals, the lesbian Aboriginals, the transgender Sista Girls, or an investigation into interracial marriages that are loving and kind, instead of just more and more works that reinforce injustices (of history) in the here and now, through the dis/embodied plastic body of a silent doll. Where is the positivity for the future, for example an acknowledgement of the thousands of people that attended Invasion Day rallies this year?

Collectively, the exhibition powerfully questions the processes of a problematic cultural assimilation using repurposed Aboriginalia but today Aboriginal identities, like all identities, are in a state of transformation and flux. I look at the work of contemporary African artists and I see joy, hope, colour, movement, new identities, new sites of conceptualisation in the evolving struggle to engage new definitions of nationhood in relation to the autonomous, self-governing body. They acknowledge history, discrimination, the struggle for freedom, but are more forward looking, more engaged with the possibilities of the future rather than the deficits of the past expressed in the inequalities of the present. When is a positive voice of embodied (not disembodied, decapitated) Ab/origin going to emerge in contemporary art?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Jennifer Isaacs. “Introduction,” in Jennifer Isaacs (ed.,). Aboriginality: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings and Prints. University of Queensland Press, 1996, p. 8.

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Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. All the other images, as noted, are iPhone images of the exhibition by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Destiny Deacon is one of Australia’s boldest and most acclaimed contemporary artists. In the largest retrospective of her work to date, DESTINY marks the artist’s first solo show in over 15 years. Featuring more than 100 multi-disciplinary works made over a 30-year period, the exhibition includes the premiere of newly-commissioned works. Numerous early video works created with the late Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi photographer Michael Riley and West Australian performance artist Erin Hefferon are also on display.

A descendant of the Kuku and Erub / Mer people from Far North Queensland and Torres Strait, Deacon is internationally known for a body of work depicting her darkly comic, idiosyncratic worldview. Offering a nuanced, thoughtful and, at times, intensely funny snapshot of contemporary Australian life, Deacon reminds us that ‘serious’ art can also have a sense of humour.

Melbourne-based, Deacon works across photography, video, sculpture and installation to explore dichotomies such as childhood and adulthood, comedy and tragedy, and theft and reclamation. Her chaotic worlds, where disgraced dolls play out sinister scenes for audience amusement, subvert cultural phenomena to reflect and parody the environments around us.

 

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's 'Abi see da classroom' 2006

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Abi see da classroom 2006 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Virginia Fraser (Australian, d. 2021)
Abi see da classroom (stills)
2006
10 min. sound
National Gallery of Victoria
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Abi see da classroom

For the fiftieth anniversary of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), Destiny Deacon and her long-time collaborator Virginia Fraser were given unrestricted access to the ABC’s archive, possibly the most significant collection of film and television held in Australia. By searching for any keywords that started with ‘Aborigin’ they were able to uncover a large assortment of videos.

In this installation, two CRT television screens play alongside each other, creating a mashup of noise and black-and-white moving images. The television on the right shows archival footage of Aboriginal children attending school, reading and playing musical instruments, while the television on the left presents a series of short clips of people in varying degrees of blackface. Switching from uncomfortable to distasteful, to overtly racist, the two channels juxtapose extreme versions of how Aboriginal people have historically been depicted on television. The footage is problematic and offensive; though, some might say ‘it was a different time’. The flashback to the 1950s prompts audiences to consider Australia’s legacy of televised racism and poses the question: how far have we actually come?

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Blak lik mi' 1991

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Blak lik mi 1991 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Blak lik mi' 1991

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Blak lik mi
1991, printed 1995
Exhibition version printed 202
Colour laser print from Polaroid original
80.0 x 100.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Blak lik mi

Historically photography has been used as a tool to categorise and document Aboriginal people and their lives. In this work Destiny Deacon reclaims three images taken from a 1960s reproduction of a 1957 Axel Poignant photograph, from his photo essay, originally titled Picaninny Walkabout, later renamed Bush Walkabout. Deacon turns the colonial gaze back on the coloniser, photographing the photograph, and subverting her position as both subject and photographer.

The title Blak lik mi is a reference to John Howard Griffin’s autobiographical novel, Black Like Me, in which Griffin took large doses of an anti-vitiligo drug and spent hour daily under an ultraviolet lamp in order to change the appearance of his skin so that he ‘passed’ as Black. Deacon’s work offers a window into her own interrogation about what constitutes her Aboriginal identity. On this, Deacon often jokes that she ‘took the c, out of black little c**t’. Rude words beginning with ‘c’, of which there are many, are often used as offensive slights, and Deacon recalls being taunted with these words as a child.

‘Blak’, unlike ‘Black’, was Deacon’s way of self-determining her identity, and originating a version of the self that comes entirely from within. The legacy of this work has been massive. Countless Aboriginal people now self-determine their identity as Blak, so much so that a Google search of ‘Blak’ returns a nearly all Australian Indigenous search result.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Me and Virginia’s doll (Me and Carol) 1997 at left, Last laughs 1995 at centre, and Where’s Mickey 2002 at right, on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Me and Virginia's doll (Me and Carol)' 1997

 

Destiny Deacon (Australian, Kuku/Erub/Mer b. 1957)
Me and Virginia’s doll (Me and Carol)
1997, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original

 

 

Destiny Deacon began her professional career in photography in her late thirties as a way to express herself and her political beliefs. A self-taught artist, Deacon is primarily known for her photographs and videos where she subverts familiar icons with humour and wit. Often when Deacon photographs people she poses them like paintings. In this image, Deacon presents herself as Frida, staging the image as an homage to Kahlo’s 1937 painting Me and my doll.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Last laughs' 1995

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Last laughs
1995
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In this image Deacon both reclaims and ridicules a genre of colonial photography, which historically depicted Aboriginal women as a highly sexualised or exotic ‘other’. In the nineteenth century it was commonplace for Aboriginal women to appear naked in ethnographic photographs that were mass reproduced and distributed as souvenirs around the world. In Last laughs three Blak women pose for the camera, limbs intertwined, performing their sexuality. Unlike in the colonial photography it references, the subjects in this work are the ones in control.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Where's Mickey?' 2002

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Where’s Mickey?
2002, printed 2016
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Where’s Mickey? plays on the Australian slang phrase ‘Mickey Mouse’, used to refer to something that is substandard, poorly executed or amateurish. Mickey Mouse is also the archetypal figure of an (often white) American consumerist culture. In this portrait of Luke Captain, Deacon pokes fun at the cartoon icon, suggesting his animated spirit has possessed the body of an Aboriginal Australian man, who is dressed as a woman.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left, Where’s Mickey? 2002, and at right Meloncholy 2000
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Meloncholy' 2000

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Meloncholy
2000
From the Sad & Bad series
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In 1970 African-American film director, Melvin Van Peebles released Watermelon Man, a movie in which a fictional, white insurance salesman wakes up one morning only  to discover he has turned Black overnight. The film is inspired by John Howard Griffin’s autobiographical novel, Black Like Me. In this image Deacon gives the watermelon a double meaning. The emptied peel of the melon cradles the doll’s body, kind of like the coolamon [Coolamon is an anglicised NSW Aboriginal word used to describe an Australian Aboriginal carrying vessel], but it is also a fruit that has been severed from its skin. She challenges the relationship between identity, skin colour, and how the world perceives and responds to both Blackness and Blakness.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Adoption' 2000 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Adoption (installation view)
2000; printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016; copy printed 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In this image Destiny Deacon has placed a collection of plastic, black toy babies into paper cupcake shells. Titled Adoption, this work directly references Australia’s shameful history of government-sanctioned Aboriginal child removal. In addition, Adoption also pokes fun at the deeply offensive misnomer of the nineteenth century that Aboriginal mothers were both infanticidal, as well as cannibals of their newborns. Deacon describes how she came to collect dolls, saying ‘in the beginning I wanted to rescue them, because otherwise they’d end up in a white home or something, somewhere no one would appreciate them’.

 

 

Destiny Deacon, one of Australia’s boldest and most acclaimed contemporary artists, will be celebrated in her largest retrospective to date opening at the National Gallery of Victoria on 23 November 2020.

DESTINY will mark Deacon’s first solo show in over 15 years, featuring more than 100 multi-disciplinary works made over a 30-year period, and including the premiere of newly-commissioned works created with the artist and her long-term collaborator Virginia Fraser. The exhibition will also feature a number of early video works created with the late Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi photographer Michael Riley and West Australian performance artist Erin Hefferon.

A descendant of the Kuku and Erub / Mer people from Far North Queensland and Torres Strait, Deacon is internationally known for a body of work depicting her darkly comic, idiosyncratic world view. Offering a nuanced, thoughtful and, at times, intensely funny snapshot of contemporary Australian life, Deacon reminds us that art can have both pathos and humour.

Melbourne-based, Deacon works across photography, video, sculpture, and installation to explore dichotomies such as childhood and adulthood, comedy and tragedy, and theft and reclamation. Her chaotic worlds, where disgraced dolls play out sinister scenes for audience amusement, subvert cultural phenomena to reflect and parody the environments around us.

Featuring early videos which mock negative stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians – Home video 1987, Welcome to my Koori world 1992, I don’t wanna be a bludger 1999 – the exhibition will also feature an installation of a lounge room housing Deacon’s own collection of ‘Koori kitsch’. Deacon and Fraser’s highly acclaimed installation Colourblinded 2005 will also be on display. A powerful combination of photographs, sculptures, and video projections, this interactive work leaves the viewer both literally and metaphorically ‘colourblinded’.

“Featuring new NGV commissions and some of the highlights of Deacon’s 30-year career, the retrospective DESTINY pays tribute to an artist who has been challenging audiences for more than 30 years,” said Tony Ellwood AM, Director, National Gallery of Victoria. “Destiny Deacon has never shied away from confronting our country’s difficult history and her work continues to make a vital contribution to Australian cultural discourse,” said Ellwood.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at second right, Meloncholy 2000 and at right, Over the fence 2000
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Over the fence' 2000 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Over the fence (installation view)
2000, printed 2000
Exhibition version printed 2020
From the Sad & Bad series
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The nostalgic qualities in Deacon’s poignant photograph Over the fence reinforce a narrative familiar to many Aboriginal people. Two segregated dollies peer at each other across a suburban, wooden fence, leaving the audience wondering who is fenced in, and who is fenced out? The image illustrates an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality towards race, which many Aboriginal people would recognise beneath this seemingly ‘friendly’ neighbourhood encounter.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Portrait of Peter Blazey, writer' 2004 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Portrait of Peter Blazey, writer (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Peter Blazey, journalist, author and gay activist.

Blazey was born in Melbourne in 1939 and worked for The Australian, the National Times and as a regular columnist for OutRage, a gay magazine. He published a number of books, including a political biography of Henry Bolte, and was co-editor of the short fiction anthology, Love Cries. His personal memoir, Screw Loose, appeared after his death from AIDS in 1997.

“Peter was someone with a lion’s head of loose ends that could never fit into some ideologically sound and tidy space. Storyteller, mythomane, and one of the last great conversationalists in a country wary of the free flow of uncensored language, he was a comet who flashed his tail at everyone.” – Tim Herbert, OutRage, 1997.

Text from the University of Melbourne Scholarship website [Online] Cited 29/01/2021

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Portrait of Gary Foley, activist' 1995 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Portrait of Gary Foley, activist (installation view)
1995, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Often in Deacon’s portrait photography, sitters are posed like those in paintings. In these three images, Deacon presents Gary Foley, an Aboriginal Gumbainggir activist, academic, writer and actor; Peter Blazey, the late journalist, author and gay activist; and Richard Bell, and activist and artist of the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang communities. All three men are posed in a near identical way to the 1932 painting The boy at the basin by Australian landscape and portrait artist William Dobell.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'My boomerang did come back' 2003 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
My boomerang did come back (installation view)
2003, printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'My boomerang did come back' 2003

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
My boomerang did come back
2003, printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

This image is a reference to Charlie Drake’s 1961 song ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back’. Drake sings in a halting and staccato manner, wildly grunting ‘ho’ and ‘ugh’ as he narrates the story of an effeminate young Aboriginal boy named Mac, who has been banished from his tribe because he is ‘a big disgrace to the Aborigine [sic] race’ because his ‘boomerang won’t come back’. A single hand (Lisa Bellear’s) reachers upward, grasping a bloody boomerang in front of a black background. Deacon suggests that Drake, whose song is at best a kind of vaudevillian blackface, has assassinated himself.

 

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Hear come the judge (installation view)
2006
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Deacon references the 1968 comedic funk song ‘Here Comes the Judge’ by American entertained Dewey ‘Pigmeat’ Markham, which is regarded by many to be the first recorded hip-hop song. Markham’s lyrics ridicule the formalities of courtroom etiquette by painting a picture of a make-believe world where justice is in the hands of Black people. Deacon’s photograph uses humour to disarm and interrogate something that is inherently unfunny. The Blak / Black judge is only comical because it is supposedly unbelievable, a notion Deacon challenges audiences to reconsider.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Border patrol' 2006 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Border patrol (installation view)
2006, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“And they figured a dispossessed people as racial types, suggesting that authentic Aboriginal identity was purely tribal and something to be trivialised as curios and knick-knacks…

But the figurines of a racialised people, of warriors, beautiful girls and adorable children, took this interest into a different realm of curiosity, namely objectification.

Elder women, who were often savagely vilified in popular newspapers as “unsightly frights”, never appear among these figurines. Lithe young women, deep-chested warrior tribesmen, dignified elder “noble savages” and sweetly smiling “piccaninnies” were particularly prized. In the early prints of artists Peg Maltby and Brownie Downing, endearing Aboriginal children are orphaned by the bush rather than being at home in the country of their birthright. They find playmates with baby native animals but are divested of family and community. They seem to be crying out for the care that only the state, it was thought, could properly provide. …

The figures found in Aboriginalia evoke a troubling presence, in which visual appeal, sometimes libidinal, stands in for the profound ambivalence at the heart of settler-colonialism, which has benefited from the violent dispossession of a people.

While townships were campaigning to exclude Aboriginal kids from schools, families from housing and adults from pubs, these nostalgic, perplexing images were being taken into white homes in the form of bric-a-brac.

Sociologist Adrian Franklin has described the “semiotic drenching” of souvenirs with Aboriginal motifs and argues “these objects became ‘repositories of recognition’ of what was often entirely absent, denied or undermined in the everyday political and policy spheres”.

These objects, he suggests, gave some expression to the sadness surrounding dispossession and removal. In more recent years, Indigenous artists such as Destiny Deacon and Tony Albert have repurposed Aboriginalia.

Thus it is finally being historicised, interpreted and recast through Aboriginal eyes.

Deacon uses dolls and kitsch ephemera from her own extensive collection to turn the tables on the uncritical consumption of racist imagery. In one of her best backhanders, she puts plastic, black babies in cupcake shells and titles the photograph Adoption.”

Extract from Dr Liz Conor. “Friday essay: the politics of Aboriginal kitsch,” on The Conversation website March 3, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/01/2021 CC

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right Border patrol 2006
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at second left, Heart broken 2006, and at fourth from left,
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Heart broken' 2006

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Heart broken
2006
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Ask your mother for sixpence' 1995

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Ask your mother for sixpence
1995
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist © Destiny Deacon

 

 

This image takes its name from a cheeky nursery rhyme Deacon recalls learning when living in Port Melbourne as a child. The playful limerick teases audiences with the threat of a rude word: ‘Ask your mum for sixpence, to see the big giraffe, pimples on his whiskers, and pimples on his – ask your mum for sixpence’. The work was originally displayed in juxtaposition with a photograph of a half-built Crown Casino in Melbourne, challenging audiences to consider the dynamic between the main character, a Blak woman working in service sweeping up coins, and the multinational gambling corporation.

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

 

Installation views of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley’s I don’t wanna be a bludger 1999 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020. Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

 

Wall text

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 with at left, Whitey’s watching 1994; and at right, Moomba princess and Moomba princeling (both 2004)
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at centre, Moomba princess and Moomba princeling (both 2004), and at right Thought cone (A-F) 1997
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Moomba princess' 2004 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Moomba princess (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Moomba princess and Moomba princeling show Deacon’s young niece and nephew dressed in the robes and regalia of Moomba sovereigns. Moomba is an annual parade and community festival held in Melbourne, which each year crowns a ‘Moomba monarch’. The portraits reference Elizabethan Armada portraiture, a style of painting which first depicted the Tudor queen seated in royal garb and surrounded by symbols against a backdrop depicting the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. At first glance, the Moomba portraits can be read as innocent children playing dress ups, but by presenting two Aboriginal models in this type of colonial ceremonial dress, Deacon challenges audiences to consider the legacy and impact of British invasion.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Moomba princeling' 2004 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Moomba princeling (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Thought cone (A-F) 1997 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Thought cone (A-F) 1997 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Thought cone (A-F) (installation view details)
1997, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Whitey's watching' 1994

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Whitey’s watching 1994 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Whitey’s watching 1994 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For more than thirty years Destiny Deacon has forged a path as an international artist with a distinct brand of artistic humour unlike any other. Descended from the Kuku and Erub / Mer peoples of Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait, Deacon has been living and working in Melbourne since she arrived here as a small child.

Deacon’s work sits in the uncomfortable but compelling space between comedy and tragedy, and contrasts seemingly innocuous childhood imagery with scenes from the dark side of adulthood. She actively resists interpretation and so called ‘art speak’, instead choosing to let her work speak for itself. The more we look, the greater we understand that the world Deacon conjures is a complex one. Drawing from her vast collection of Aboriginalia, Deacon interrogates the way in which Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, misrepresented within popular culture. Decapitated, amputated, pants down, tied up, trapped in a blizzard or flying through the air, the characters in Deacon’s world both reflect and parody the one in which we live.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right, Regal eagles (A-B) 1994
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Regal eagles (A-B) (installation views)
1994, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Academic, historian and Indigenous rights activist Marcia Langton once described Destiny Deacon’s work as a ‘barometer of postcolonial anxiety’. This diptych combines two congruent images: the photo on the left shows a pair of young, white boys holding plastic Union Jacks and eating in front of a disregarded, spread-eagled Black doll. The image on the right shows another Black dolly in a Koori flag T-shirt pinned onto a board surrounded by appropriated Aboriginalia. As always in Deacon’s work, the dolls possess a liveliness and personality, making the violence enacted on to them all the more confronting.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Melbourne Noir 2013
Photos: Tom Ross

 

 

Adapting the quotidian formats of snapshot photography, home videos, community TV and performance modes drawn from vaudeville and minstrel shows, Deacon’s artistic practice is marked by a wicked yet melancholy comedic and satirical disposition. In decidedly lo-fi vignettes, friends, family and members of Melbourne’s Indigenous community appear in mischievous narratives that amplify and deconstruct stereotypes of Indigenous identity and national history. For Melbourne Now, Deacon and Fraser present a trailer for a film noir that does not exist, a suite of photographs and a carnivalesque diorama. The pair’s playful political critiques underscore a prevailing sense of postcolonial unease, while connecting their work to wider global discourses concerned with racial struggle and cultural identity.

Text from Exhibition: ‘Melbourne Now’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Part 1

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's 'Melbourne Noir' 2013

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Melbourne Noir 2013
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

Digital prints, Digital prints on plywood, wood, gelatin silver photographs, high-definition video, sound
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing in the foreground Snow storm 2005
Photos: Tom Ross

Colour Blinded

Man & doll (a)
Man & doll (b)
Man & doll (c)
Baby boomer
Back up
Pacified
2005, printed 2020
Lightfoot print from orthochromatic film negative

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Virginia Fraser (Australian)
Snow storm (installation views)
2005
Golliwogs, polystyrene and perspex cube
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Man & doll' 2005 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Man & doll' 2005 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Man & doll (installation view details)
2005, printed 2020
Lightfoot print from orthochromatic film negative
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Koori lounge room 2021
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Koori lounge room 2021
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Ebony and Ivy face race' 2016 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Ebony and Ivy face race (installation view)
2016, printed 2020
Lightjet print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Sand minding / Sand grabs (installation views)
2017, printed 2020
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

More than half of all mining projects in Australia are in close proximity to Indigenous communities. This relationship has long been, and continues to be, the source of much debate. In this work Deacon condemns the violence committed by the sand mining industry on the ecosystem, the land and its people. A latex-gloved hand makes an incision in a bag of soil, destructively releasing the sand inside. The white hand grasps the contents and takes a handful. Two disturbing characters look on with a seemingly perplexed expression, perhaps inviting us to consider the consequences of mining.

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left, Arrears windows 2009; at centre, Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017; and in the background Koori lounge room 2021

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Arrears windows' 2009

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Arrears windows
2009
From the series Gazette
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
60.0 x 80.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Gazette

Gossip walks
Look out!
Action men
Arrears windows
Come on in my kitchen

In 2009 Deacon produced the series Gazette. These now eerily familiar scenes appear like vignettes, offering windows into the lives of those living inside Melbourne’s public housing towers. Recent scenes from the news are echoed in Arrears windows, which shows Deacon’s collection of black and brown dolls crammed into yellow plastic tubs. The series draws attention to the individual lives and struggles of residents within these buildings, while also reminding viewers of the often-overcrowded conditions these residents live in. Each image brings to light Deacon’s idiosyncratic take on current global and national events with her semi-autobiographical edge.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Action men' 2009

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Action men
2009
From the series Gazette
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
80.0 x 60cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Dolly eyes (A-H)
2020
Lightjet print
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A doll with piercing blue eyes and dark brown skin is among the unblinking, manic faces that make up Destiny Deacon’s most recent series, Dolly Eyes, 2020. While people of colour can and do have an array of different-coloured eyes, blue eyes are often seen as a signifier of whiteness. Deacon’s tightly cropped images reduce these dollies to just eyes and skin tone, highlighting the problematic nature of using physical features to signify of racial identity.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly lips (A-E)' 2017

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Dolly lips (A-E)
2017, printed 2020
Lightjet print
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Dolly lips extracts surprising expressions from some of Deacon’s regular models. Some of these dolls have been posing for Deacon for decades, but these sensitive and suggestive images show them in a new light.

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Smile' 2017

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Smile 2017 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Smile' 2017

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Smile
2017
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Deacon undercuts our trust in the innocuous smiley face emoji and prompts the viewer to look more closely at the everyday symbols that proliferate in our lives. The dolls appear decapitated, but perhaps even more ominously the disembodied heads are actually poking through a yellow sheet. Deacon uses an op-shop boomerang to complete the smile. When broken down, the individual features that make up the happy face are all racially charged. However, when viewed at a glance, all people see is the familiar smiley face emoji.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Oz Games – Under the spell of the tall poppies' 1998

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Oz Games – Under the spell of the tall poppies
1998
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Deacon produced Oz, a series of works parodying the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. In the original film, Dorothy Gale is swept away from a farmhouse in Kansas to the magical land of Oz. In this series, Deacon transforms the journey undertaken by the original characters into a contemporary recognition of Aboriginality. Dorothy, now known as the ‘traveller’, appears alongside a ‘sad’ tin man, a ‘slow’ scarecrow in blackface and a ‘scared’ cowardly lion. The character’s quest for self-realisation resembles the personal journeys many Aboriginal people go through every day.

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right, On reflection 2019

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'On reflection' 2019

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
On reflection
2019
Lightjet print
100.0 x 80.0cm
Collection of the artist
© Destiny Deacon, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Escape – From the whacking spoon' 2007

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Escape – From the whacking spoon
2007
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Whacked

Escape – from the whacking spoon
Whacked to sleep (B)
Fence sitters (A)
The goodie hoodie family
Waiting for the bust
Whacked & coming home

2007, printed 2020
Lightjet print

This series of photographs references familiar imagery from news media and contemporary culture, making a link between themes of terrorism, surveillance, suppression and Australian nationalism. Playing with stereotypes, Deacon and her friends have masked themselves in long johns with disturbing painted faces. The images use sinister humour to highlight shared similarities between fanatics around the world.

 

Installation view of 'Postcards from Mummy' 1998

Installation view of 'Postcards from Mummy' 1998

 

Installation view of Postcards from Mummy 1998 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left Dolly eyes (A-H) 2020; and at right, Blak 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Throughout her career, this cast of characters has become central to Deacon’s practice, as has her subversive use of language. For Deacon, language, and in particular spelling, has provided an opportunity to reframe and assert her identity on her own terms. In its deceptive simplicity the recasting of ‘Black’ to ‘Blak’ resonated with Aboriginal communities everywhere. What started as Deacon asserting her personal identity as a Kuku / Erub / Mer woman, has since morphed into a Community-owned declaration of Aboriginal pride. It is fitting to conclude this exhibition with a singular photographic work: the letters b-l-a-k emblazoned across the surface with seventeen of Deacon’s regular dolly models.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Blak' 2020 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Blak (installation view)
2020
Light jet print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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02
Feb
19

Exhibition: ‘Daughters Of The Sun: Christian Waller & Klytie Pate’ at Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2018 – 10th February 2019

Curator: Emma Busowsky Cox

 

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'The daughter of the sun' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The daughter of the sun
1932
Paper lithograph, printed in black ink, from one zinc plate
21.4 x 15.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1983

 

 

I travelled up to Bendigo to see this small gem of an exhibition with a friend of mine… and the trip was so very worthwhile.

Being a ceramic tragic (especially in my love of vases), I was in seventh heaven observing and admiring the sublime work of Klytie Pate – the precision of incised and pierced motifs, the clean, classic forms and the gorgeous, colourful glazes. Absolutely brilliant work.

But the revelation of the exhibition was the work of Christian Waller. Oh My God – literally, religion as “an idiosyncratic fusion of orthodox and alternative spiritual philosophies: Christianity, Theosophy, the Golden Dawn and the International Peace Mission Movement,” portrayed through a personal language of symbols in Waller’s art, used “to express her pantheistic sense of the spiritual and encourage spiritual contemplation…”

To the list of spiritual philosophies you can add the Tarot, Egyptology, and mythology – Arthurian and Irish. The list of influences includes the British Arts and Crafts Movement, the Pre-Raphaelites, and Art Deco. And the list of personal symbols includes the sun, the moon, stars and flowers.

These are mighty works, particularly the impressive linocuts. They had such a depth of form and feeling, the blackness of the ink seeming to draw you into the physical and spiritual structure of the works. The highlight was a darkened room at the centre of the exhibition in which was presented all seven linocuts from Waller’s book The Great Breath: A book of seven designs (1932, below).

Swear to my god (that is, an energy that I believe permeates every atom, tree, animal and pore of the earth and the cosmos), I had a spiritual revelation while contemplating this work. Some might say that the designs are “of their time”, the sentiments expressed romantic and trite. To that I have one word to say: bullshit.

Great art, great design, and great feeling (for/of spirit) never, ever, leaves the creator or the creation.

“The Spirit of Light… Who descended into the depths of Chaos.”
“The Lords of the Flame… Who brought down to Earth the Divine Fire of Heaven.”

Australia has so many hidden gems in their artists. Thank you, thank you Bendigo Art Gallery for showing me two of them. Simply magical.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Bendigo Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Destiny' 1916

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Destiny
1916
Oil on canvas
51.0 × 61.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated from the Estate of Ouida Marston, 2011

 

 

Destiny, 1916, a painting completed by Christian shortly after leaving the school, indicates that the influence of Hall’s teaching extended beyond her student years. She adroitly renders the flesh in paint, yet adds her personal style. Florence modelled for this work and assumes the character of a sorceress watching over a mystical concoction. Through the use of dark, muted tones, Christian suggests a macabre, mystical narrative: the woman dressed in a medieval cloak is depicted bent over a bubbling cauldron, while the naked humans are trapped in the bubbles.15 This work demonstrates that by 1916 she possessed high-level artistic skills and the capacity to develop original compositions informed by her literary and mystical interests.

Extract from Woman of the Sun: Christian Waller by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) The conspirators c. 1920

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The conspirators
c. 1920
Drawing in pen and black ink
Image 12.9 h x 25.9 w cm
Sheet 12.9 h x 25.9 w cm
National Gallery of Australia

 

 

The phase of Christian’s practice immediately after she had left the National Gallery School, including the period when she and Napier were developing their home at Fairy Hills, saw her employ dynamic line and decorative expression to create original drawings (mainly in pen and ink) and book illustrations that increasingly reflected her engagement with mysticism and spiritual symbols, such as The Conspirators, c. 1920 (above), one of her finest pen-and-ink drawings. Her intricate line work evokes a sinister scene, one that bears little resemblance to the world in which she lived, suggesting instead a narrative from a medieval story. Her strong graphic abilities and striking use of symbolism were repeatedly singled out in reviews of the Victorian Artists’ Society exhibitions in which she participated from 1913 through to the 1920s.27

Extract from Woman of the Sun: Christian Waller by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll

 

Photographer unknown. 'Napier and Christian Waller' 1922

 

Photographer unknown
Napier and Christian Waller
1922
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy the Trustees of the Waller Estate, Melbourne

 

 

Christian Waller, in a 1948 interview about her stained glass for the Woman’s Magazine, stated that there were ‘two words printed on my consciousness’, these being ‘work and God’.1 As she implies, Christian created artworks that unified her aesthetic interests with the spiritual values she held so profoundly – her art was inspired by her spiritual thinking. And her evolving artistic and spiritual values were expressed through the array of expressive decorative media harnessed by her, including drawing, illustration, printmaking, painting and stained glass.

Christian was driven by her aim to communicate spiritual values through art, articulating this towards the end of her life in the newspaper interview from which the earlier quotation was obtained: ‘My life is to get the message through, and I am trying to make religion real’.2 Her spirituality was an idiosyncratic fusion of orthodox and alternative spiritual philosophies: Christianity, Theosophy, the Golden Dawn and the International Peace Mission Movement. To express her pantheistic sense of the spiritual and encourage spiritual contemplation, she developed a personal language of symbols, these being predominantly the sun, the moon, stars and flowers. Her engagement with the values associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement, specifically the privileging of the handmade work of art and its social function, was central to the overall spiritual significance of her work. Christian’s artworks were generally accompanied by – or explicitly responded to – written narratives, with the harmony of word, image and message central to her creative process.

Extract from Woman of the Sun: Christian Waller by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Ethlinn' c. 1921

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Ethlinn
c. 1921
Pen and ink on paper
31.0 × 14.2 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of John McPhee, 2008
© Courtesy of the artist’s estate

 

 

This exhibition tells the story of Christian Waller, celebrated Australian printmaker of the Art Deco era, and her niece, the pioneering ceramic artist, Klytie Pate.

Christian Waller, born in Castlemaine in Central Victoria in 1894, had a deep personal interest in spiritualism, symbolism and the mystical philosophies of the modern theosophical movement. Her print work is characterised by a complex symbolism, combining ancient classical and literary subjects alongside occult motifs in a dynamic style owing much to the bold geometry of Art Deco and the handmade ethos of the Arts and Crafts movement. In 1954, aged 59, Waller died a virtual recluse in the Fairy Hills home she shared with her artist husband, Napier Waller. At this time, she had also established a reputation as one of Australia’s leading stained glass artists, having produced some 65 windows for churches in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

Christian Waller’s niece, Klytie Pate, came to live with the Wallers as a young teenager. As Pate’s maternal figure from a formative age, Christian Waller was an influential force in Pate’s life, directing her notable artistic talent into formal studies and guiding her early career. Klytie Pate mastered her chosen craft of ceramic art, forging innovations in design and glazing to become one of Australia’s foremost studio potters of the 20th century. Her aunt’s influence, in design and in subject, continued in Pate’s work for the whole of her long and successful career.

Daughters of the Sun: Christian Waller & Klytie Pate explores the intertwining lives and work of these artists, bringing together works from Bendigo Art Gallery’s own collection, as well as the Klytie Pate Treasury at Beleura, Napier Waller House, the National Gallery of Victoria, the National Gallery of Australia and other lenders. A major publication will accompany the exhibition, with essays by the exhibition curator, Emma Busowsky Cox, and art historian Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll.

Text from the Bendigo Art Gallery website

 

Christian Waller. 'Morgan Le Fay' c. 1925

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Morgan Le Fay [Morgan the fairy]
c. 1925
Oil on wood panel
Collection of Dennis O’Hoy, AM

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Morgan Le Fay' c. 1927

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Morgan Le Fay  [Morgan the fairy]
c. 1927
Linocut on paper, printed in colour, hand coloured
Sheet: 27.5 x 18.9 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of Ballarat
Purchased, 1976

 

 

Daughters of the Sun: Christian Waller & Klytie Pate tells a story with its origins in Central Victoria. Christian Waller was born in Castlemaine in 1894, and received some of her early artistic tuition in Bendigo. A child prodigy, Waller first exhibited her work at Bendigo Art Gallery in 1909 with a classically themed painting called A Petition. She was just fourteen years old.

Christian Waller’s notable artistic talent saw the family move to Melbourne so she could attend the National Gallery School. Establishing a reputation in book illustration, printmaking and stained glass (both design and execution), Waller’s interests in the occult, ancient mythology, literature and theosophy are brought together in dazzling, original works. With her husband, the artist Napier Waller, she established a superb Arts and Crafts style home in an area of Melbourne’s Ivanhoe, fittingly called Fairy Hills.

In around 1925, following difficult family circumstances, Christian Waller’s young niece, Klytie Pate, came to live with the Wallers under their guardianship. As Pate’s maternal figure from a formative age, Christian Waller was an influential force in Pate’s life, directing her notable artistic talent into formal studies and guiding her early career. Klytie Pate mastered her chosen craft of ceramic art, forging innovations in design and glazing to become one of Australia’s foremost studio potters of the twentieth century. Her aunt’s influence, in design and in subjects, can be seen throughout Pate’s oeuvre – a career that spanned more than sixty years.

Karen Quinlan, Director of Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the work Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills by Napier Waller, 1932

 

Napier Waller (Australian, 1893-1972) 'Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills' 1932

 

Napier Waller (Australian, 1893-1972)
Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills
1932
Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on composition board
121.5 x 205.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1984

 

Napier Waller (Australian, 1893-1972) 'Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills' 1932 (detail)

 

Napier Waller (Australian, 1893-1972)
Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills (detail)
1932
Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on composition board
121.5 x 205.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1984

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954) 'Ex Libris: Klytie' c. 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Ex Libris: Klytie
c. 1932
Linocut
13.6 x 7.8 cm
Irreg. (block) 15.4 x 9.5 cm irreg. (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Ms Klytie Pate, Member, 1999

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Untitled (Thomas and the Persian)' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Untitled (Thomas and the Persian)
1932
Paper lithograph, printed in black ink, from one zinc plate
22.8 x 17.4 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1979

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the 7 linocuts from the The Great Breath: A book of seven designs by Christian Waller, 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954) 'The Lords of Venus' from 'The Great Breath: A book of seven designs' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The Lords of Venus from The Great Breath: A book of seven designs
1932
Linocut 31.8 x 13.5 cm (block)
35.3 x 16.6 cm irreg. (sheet)
Bendigo Art Gallery
R.H.S. Abbott Bequest Fund, 1990

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954) 'The Magician of the Beautiful' from 'The Great Breath: A book of seven designs' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The Magician of the Beautiful from The Great Breath: A book of seven designs
1932
Linocut 31.8 x 13.5 cm (block)
35.3 x 16.6 cm irreg. (sheet)
Bendigo Art Gallery
R.H.S. Abbott Bequest Fund, 1990

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954) 'The Spirit of Light' from 'The Great Breath: A book of seven designs' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The Spirit of Light from The Great Breath: A book of seven designs
1932
Linocut 31.8 x 13.5 cm (block)
35.3 x 16.6 cm irreg. (sheet)
Bendigo Art Gallery
R.H.S. Abbott Bequest Fund, 1990

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the work The robe of glory by Christian Waller, 1937

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'The robe of glory' 1937

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The robe of glory
1937
Oil on canvas
172.0 x 267.0 cm
Collection of the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'The robe of glory' 1937 (detail)

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The robe of glory (detail)
1937
Oil on canvas
172.0 x 267.0 cm
Collection of the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Untitled (Angus Og and Caer Ormaith)' c. 1930s

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Untitled (Angus Og and Caer Ormaith)
c. 1930s
Stained glass, lead
32 cm diameter
The Hilda Johns Collection on loan from Peter Johns

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the work East of the Sun and West of the Moon by Christian Waller, c. 1940

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon' c. 1940

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
c. 1940
Stained glass window
Beleura House & Garden

 

 

One of Christian’s most impressive windows is also one of her only known secular windows, the baptistery-sized window East of the Sun and West of the Moon. It was made for her friend Tallis, whom she and her husband had met while travelling to London on the boat Otranto in 1929; the then teenager recorded his impressions of the ‘terribly imaginative and emotional’ Christian in his diary, which she illustrated.50 The window is located alongside a collection of Christian’s art and that of her niece at Beleura House & Garden in Mornington, Victoria. The use of pattern, symbols and sinuous line in East of the Sun and West of the Moon owes a stylistic debt to Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, specifically his work in East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Tales from the North (1914), from which Christian derived the name for the window.51

Extract from Woman of the Sun: Christian Waller by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll

 

Jack Cato (1889-1971) 'Untitled (Christian Waller)' 1930s

 

Jack Cato (1889-1971)
Untitled (Christian Waller)
1930s
Gelatin silver photograph
24.3 × 18.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Ms Klytie Pate, Member, 1999

 

Photographer unknown. 'Untitled (Klytie Pate and cat)' c. 1930

 

Photographer unknown
Untitled (Klytie Pate and cat)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver photograph
Klytie Pate Archive, Shaw Research Library, National Gallery of Victoria

 

Klytie Pate (1912-2010) Studies for the linocut 'Limpang Tung' 1932

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Studies for the linocut Limpang Tung
1932
Pencil
19.9 × 27.0 cm irreg. (image)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by the artist, Member, 1999
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Photographer unknown. 'Untitled (Klytie Pate [centre] at Melbourne Technical College)' early 1930s

 

Photographer unknown
Untitled (Klytie Pate [centre] at Melbourne Technical College)
early 1930s
Gelatin silver photograph courtesy Dr Will Twycross

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Scarab beetle plate' c 1932

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Scarab beetle plate
c 1932
Earthenware
22.0 cm (diameter)
Beleura House & Garden

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'The sun, plaque' 1932

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
The sun, plaque
1932
Earth pigments on plaster, glass, wire
38.5 x 22.8 x 2.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1984
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Youth and girl' c. 1936 (detail)

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Youth and girl (detail)
c. 1936
Brush and ink over pencil
11.9 x 21.0 cm irreg. (image and comp.) 18.5 x 29.3 irreg. (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1981

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Youth and girl' c. 1936

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Youth and girl
c. 1936
Brush and ink over pencil
11.9 x 21.0 cm irreg. (image and comp.) 18.5 x 29.3 irreg. (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1981

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Youth and girl, plaque' 1932-1936

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Youth and girl, plaque
1932-1936
Plaster
31.9 x 55.7 x 2.4 cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from the artist, 1984

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Spirit of the trees (back)
Terracota
Collection John McPhee

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Fauna (right)
1937
wood engraving
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase
1936
Incised and glazed earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase
1936
Incised and glazed earthenware
The Trustees of the Waller Estate, Melbourne

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase
1936
Incised and glazed earthenware
The Trustees of the Waller Estate, Melbourne

 

Klytie Pate (1912-2010) 'Vase' 1936

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase
1936
Earthenware
The Trustees of the Waller Estate, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Bottle-brush, vase
c. 1939
Earthenware
24.6 × 19.4 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council, 1980
© Courtesy of the artist

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Milky Way vase
c. 1956
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Anne Howett Molan, 1984

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Antelope vase
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ceramic vase
1988
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

 

'Bottle-brush, vase' c. 1939

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Bottle-brush, vase
c. 1939
Earthenware
24.6 × 19.4 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council, 1980
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Milky way vase' c. 1956

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Milky way, vase
c. 1956
Earthenware
32.4 × 22.5 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Anne Howett Molan, 1984
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Pate’s work from the late 1930s through to the 1940s indicates a maturing of her personal style and approach. Covered jar of 1939 embodies her deference both to the ginger jar form and the monochrome glaze, elements taken from the Chinese tradition and to which she would continuously return. The ginger jar, with its large globular body, provided the ideal vehicle to showcase her spectacular glazing technique and skilful decorative incising. Pate took a highly experimental approach to glazing, one adopted in the lean years of the Depression, when materials were scarce. (She was known to grind up mosaic tiles from Napier’s commissions to use in her glazes, and on a later occasion, employed sand pocketed during a trip to the Grand Canyon, to glittering effect.) However, the serene sea blue so favoured by Pate, known as ‘Klytie blue’, became a hallmark of her work.49 Pate acquired glazes from a range of sources, including England, with her recipes closely guarded secrets.50 Applied with a spray gun, their successes were garnered through trial and error and a bit of luck in the final firing, after which the kiln was not opened for three days. About the process, she said: ‘The suspense is awful’.51

Both the natural and spiritual worlds provided Pate with a wellspring of imagery and readily translated into designs for the ceramic form. Bottle-brush vase of c. 1939, to which the artist wrote a poetic ode for a competition, takes its motif from the plant Banksia serrata, and is a stunning conceptualisation of subject and form.52 The motif of her namesake and symbol of modern Spiritualism, the sunflower, repeatedly appears, as does the Tudor rose; it is also seen dotted throughout Christian’s work and that of Vienna Secession artist Michael Powolny, to whom Christian is arguably indebted. The Ouija board used as a plinth, and celestially themed works such as Milky Way vase, c. 1956, show that the formative influence of her spiritualist aunt continued as a tangible presence.53

Animals, often her adored cats, commonly appear in both incised frieze-like filigree decorations and in sculptural form. Material collected and kept by Pate indicates her admiration for the animal works of the late nineteenth-century Italian sculptor, Rembrandt Bugatti, as well as Sumerian animal sculpture from Ur.54 Dragons, gryphons and more earthly, but no less bizarre, sea creatures are favoured motifs for both non-functional and functional ceramic forms. Theatre and music are also recurring themes: Pate fondly recalls Christian taking her to piano recitals at Melbourne Town Hall in the 1930s.55 The pianist Roy Shepherd became a close friend and urged Pate to design pots for particular records. Mahler, Monteverdi, Chopin and Debussy were amongst her favourite composers.56

Pate remained true to the earthenware tradition, despite the proliferation of stoneware in the 1950s, which was ushered in by the ready availability of higher temperature kilns and a shift towards the utilitarian simplicity espoused by influential British studio potter Bernard Leach. In the first of many subsequent trips abroad, Pate took extended leave in 1951, travelling to Britain with Bill aboard the Otranto. It was the same elegant passenger ship that Christian and Napier had taken to the UK twenty one years earlier, a trip during which they had made the acquaintance of the young composer, John (Jack) Tallis. The trip was the foundation of a lifelong friendship between Tallis and the Wallers.57 Tallis later became a significant supporter of Pate’s work and also the final owner of Beleura, the splendid mansion on the Mornington Peninsula, built in 1863 by Scottish immigrant James Butchart. Tallis bequeathed Beleura to the people of Victoria in 1996 as a memorial to his late father, Sir George Tallis, the well-known theatre entrepreneur and head of J.C. Williamson Ltd. Several works by Christian Waller adorn Beleura, which now operates as a house museum, including the wonderful stained glass window, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, in what was Tallis’s bedroom. The Klytie Pate ceramics that Tallis collected over the years became the nucleus of the largest collection of her work in any museum. Anthony Knight, Director of Beleura and one of the trustees of the Tallis Foundation, has considerably expanded Beleura’s collection of Pate’s work. In 2015, Dr Will Twycross, whose parents had been lifelong friends of the Pates, donated significant pieces from their collection to Beleura. The Twycross family also contributed to the construction of the Klytie Pate Treasury to ensure the ongoing display, preservation and enjoyment of her work.

Extract from Daughter of the Sun: Klytie Pate by Emma Busowsky Cox

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded jar (Tragedy and Comedy)
c. 1943
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Display plate
Nd
Earthenware with wax resist glaze
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Incised ginger jar
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Incised urn-shaped vase with carved seahorse lugs (flying fish motif)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Incised urn-shaped vase with carved seahorse lugs (flying fish motif)' Date unknown

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Incised urn-shaped vase with carved seahorse lugs (flying fish motif)
Date unknown
Earthenware with biscuit glaze
36.5 x 25.5 cm
Beleura House & Garden

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase (ovoid shape with rimmed neck) (left)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Sunflower plate (front)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded jar (sunflower buds) (middle)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar (right)
c. 1943
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Covered jar' c. 1943

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar
c. 1943
Earthenware
23.2 × 24.2 cm diameter (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1977
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Covered jar' c. 1943 (detail)

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar (detail)
c. 1943
Earthenware
23.2 × 24.2 cm diameter (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1977
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Lidded jar' (sunflower buds) Date unknown

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded jar (sunflower buds)
Date unknown
Glazed earthenware, incised
Beleura House & Garden

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Lidded jar' (sunflower buds) Date unknown (detail)

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded jar (sunflower buds) (detail)
Date unknown
Glazed earthenware, incised
Beleura House & Garden

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar
1971
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Anne Howett Molan through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2009

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar
1981
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Zodiac plates (from a suite)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar (music)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded bottle
1981
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Urn
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar
1977
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar
Nd (late 1970s)
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Bowl
Nd (late 1970s)
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Candleholder (central cross design)
Nd (late 1970s)
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Candleholder (filigree design)
1979
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Ginger jar' Date unknown

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar
Date unknown
Terracotta, turquoise glaze
Beleura House & Garden

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Large pierced ginger jar (woven waterlily motif)' 1950

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Large pierced ginger jar (woven waterlily motif)
1950
Glazed earthenware
51 x 28 cm
Beleura House & Garden

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Magnificent cat (left)
1980
Earthenware

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Candlestick holder (filigree pheasant motif) (right)
1979
Earthenware
Bendigo Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from the Bendigo Rotary Club and the assistance of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council, 1982

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Magnificent cat' 1980

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Magnificent cat
1980
Earthenware
Beleura House & Garden

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Magnificent cat' 1980 (detail)

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Magnificent cat (detail)
1980
Earthenware
Beleura House & Garden

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase (Mask of Venus)
Vase (Apollo)
1991
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar
1999
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Bendigo Art Gallery
42 View Street Bendigo
Victoria Australia 3550
Phone: 03 5434 6088

Opening hours:
Open daily including public holidays (closed Christmas Day), 10am – 5pm

Bendigo Art Gallery website

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30
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Photography and the American Civil War’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 2nd September 2013

BE WARNED, LIKE “INCIDENTS OF WAR”, THIS POSTING IS DISTURBING AND NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED!

 

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902) 'Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia' 1863 (detail)

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia (detail)
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

“It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ … Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.”

.
“Before the war, a child three years old, would sell in Alexandria, for about fifty dollars, and an able-bodied man at from one thousand to eighteen hundred dollars. A woman would bring from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, according to her age and personal attractions.”

.
Alexander Gardner

 

 

There are some very poignant and disturbing photographs in this posting. The youth of some of the combatants (Private Wood sits against a blank wall in a photographer’s studio. He is sixteen years old and will not see seventeen. An orphan, he joined Company H in Social Circle, Georgia, on July 3, 1861, and before the end of the year died of pneumonia in a Richmond hospital). The sheer brutality and pointlessness of war. Bloated and twisted bodies, inflated like balloons. Starved and beaten human beings.

And yet, you look at the photograph “Slave Pen” – the office of those ‘Dealers in Slaves’ now guarded by Union soldiers (above) – or the photograph of Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans and the photograph of the anonymous African American soldier fighting for the Union cause directly below and you understand just one of the reasons that this was such a bloody conflict: it was about the right of all men to be free, to throw off the bonds of servitude.

To be replaced all these years later by another corrupted power – the power of government, the power of government to surveil its people at any and all times. The power of money, the military and the gun.

Praise be the land of the free.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821-1882) 'Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821-1882)
Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond
1865
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

In 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, the Confederate government moved its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, to be closer to the front and to protect Richmond’s ironworks and flour mills. On April 2, 1865, as the Union army advanced on Richmond, General Robert E. Lee gave the orders to evacuate the city. A massive fire broke out the following day, the result of a Confederate attempt to destroy anything that could be of use to the invading Union army. In addition to consuming twenty square blocks, including nearly every building in Richmond’s commercial district, it destroyed the massive Gallego Flour Mills, situated on the James River and seen here. Alexander Gardner, Mathew B. Brady’s former gallery manager, then his rival, made numerous photographs of the “Burnt District” as well as this dramatic panorama from two glass negatives. The charred remains have become over time an iconic image of the fall of the Confederacy and the utter devastation of war.

 

A-display-of-three-photographs-of-American-Civil-War-soldiers-in-the-exhibition-WEB

 

A display of three photographs of American Civil War soldiers in the exhibition, “Photography and the American Civil War” April 1, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The three albumen silver prints are all by Gayford & Speidel, “Private Christopher Anderson, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865” (L), “Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865”, (C) and “Private Gid White, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865”, (R).
AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA

 

Unknown Artist. 'Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)' May-June 1861

 

Unknown artist
Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)
May-June 1861
One-sixth plate ambrotype
Michael J. McAfee Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

This melancholy young volunteer was a member of the Eleventh New York Infantry, an early war regiment organised in New York City in May 1861. Primarily composed of volunteers from the city’s many fire companies, the men were also known as the First Fire Zouaves. Along with other volunteer units, the Eleventh helped capture Alexandria, Virginia on May 24, 1861, just a day after the state formally seceded from the Union.

 

Unknown Artist. 'Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)' May-June 1861 (detail)

 

Unknown artist
Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves) (detail)
May-June 1861
One-sixth plate ambrotype
Michael J. McAfee Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

4.-A-Harvest-of-Death-WEB

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 1863
Printer: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Publisher: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
17.8 × 22.5cm (7 × 8 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

This photograph of the rotting dead awaiting burial after the Battle of Gettysburg is perhaps the best-known Civil War landscape. It was published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866), the nation’s first anthology of photographs. The Sketch Book features ten photographic plates of Gettysburg – eight by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, who served as a field operator for Alexander Gardner, and two by Gardner himself. The extended caption that accompanies this photograph is among Gardner’s most poetic: “It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ … Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.”

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882) Alexander Gardner, printer. 'Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, July 1863' 1863

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
Alexander Gardner, printer
Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, July 1863
1863
Plate 37 in Volume 1 of Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

This photograph of the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg appears in the two-volume opus Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865-66). Gardner’s publication is egalitarian. Offended by Brady’s habit of obscuring the names of his field operators behind the deceptive credit “Brady,” Gardner specifically identified each of the eleven photographers in the publication; forty-four of the one hundred photographs are credited to Timothy O’Sullivan. Gardner titled the plate Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg. But the photograph, its commemorative title notwithstanding, relates a far more common story: six Union soldiers lie dead, face up, stomachs bloated, their pockets picked and boots stolen. As Gardner described the previous plate, aptly titled The Harvest of Death, this photograph conveys “the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry.”

 

Unknown Artist. 'Captain Charles A. and Sergeant John M. Hawkins, Company E, “Tom Cobb Infantry,” Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry' 1861-62

 

Unknown artist
Captain Charles A. and Sergeant John M. Hawkins, Company E, “Tom Cobb Infantry,” Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry
1861-62
Quarter-plate ambrotype with applied colour
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Photo: Jack Melton

 

 

The vast majority of war portraits, either cased images or cartes de visite, are of individual soldiers. Group portraits in smaller formats are more rare and challenged the field photographer (as well as the studio gallerist) to conceive and execute an image that would honour the occasion and be desirable – saleable – to multiple sitters. For the patient photographer, this created interesting compositional problems and an excellent opportunity to make memorable group portraits of brothers, friends, and even members of different regiments.

In this quarter-plate ambrotype, Confederate Captain Charles Hawkins of the Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, on the left, sits for his portrait with his brother John, a sergeant in the same regiment. They address the camera and draw their fighting knives from scabbards. Charles would die on June 13, 1863, in the Shenandoah Valley during General Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North. John, wounded at the Battle of Gaines’s Mill in June 1862, would survive the war, fighting with his company until its surrender at Appomattox.

 

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907) 'Union Private John Parmenter, Company G, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers' June 21, 1865

 

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907)
Union Private John Parmenter, Company G, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers
June 21, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
5.7 x 9.1 cm (2 1/4 x 3 9/16 in.)
Collection Stanley B. Burns, M.D.

 

 

In this remarkable carte de visite, Private Parmenter lies unconscious from anaesthesia on an operating table at Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. To save his patient’s life, Doctor Bontecou amputated the soldier’s wounded, ulcerous foot. Before the discovery of antibiotics, gangrene was a dreaded and deadly infection that greatly contributed to the high mortality rate of soldiers during the Civil War.

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902) 'Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia' 1863

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

Better known for his later views commissioned by the Union Pacific Railroad, A. J. Russell, a captain in the 141st New York Infantry Volunteers, was one of the few Civil War photographers who was also a soldier. As a photographer-engineer for the U.S. Military Railroad Con struction Corps, Russell’s duty was to make a historical record of both the technical accomplishments of General Herman Haupt’s engineers and the battlefields and camp sites in Virginia. This view of a slave pen in Alexandria guarded, ironically, by Union officers shows Russell at his most insightful; the pen had been converted by the Union Army into a prison for captured Confederate soldiers.

Between 1830 and 1836, at the height of the American cotton market, the District of Columbia, which at that time included Alexandria, Virginia, was considered the seat of the slave trade. The most infamous and successful firm in the capital was Franklin & Armfield, whose slave pen is shown here under a later owner’s name. Three to four hundred slaves were regularly kept on the premises in large, heavily locked cells for sale to Southern plantation owners. According to a note by Alexander Gardner, who published a similar view, “Before the war, a child three years old, would sell in Alexandria, for about fifty dollars, and an able-bodied man at from one thousand to eighteen hundred dollars. A woman would bring from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, according to her age and personal attractions.”

Late in the 1830s Franklin and Armfield, already millionaires from the profits they had made, sold out to George Kephart, one of their former agents. Although slavery was outlawed in the District in 1850, it flourished across the Potomac in Alexandria. In 1859, Kephart joined William Birch, J. C. Cook, and C. M. Price and conducted business under the name of Price, Birch & Co. The partnership was dissolved in 1859, but Kephart continued operating his slave pen until Union troops seized the city in the spring of 1861.

 

Unknown Artist, after an 1860 carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady. 'Presidential Campaign Medal with Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin' 1860

 

Unknown Artist, after an 1860 carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady
Presidential Campaign Medal with Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin
1860
Tintypes in stamped brass medallion
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Overbrook Foundation Gift, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

More than 200 of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for the landmark exhibition Photography and the American Civil War, opening April 2 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through examples drawn from the Metropolitan’s celebrated holdings of this material, complemented by exceptional loans from public and private collections, the exhibition will examine the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war. The “War between the States” was the great test of the young Republic’s commitment to its founding precepts; it was also a watershed in photographic history. The camera recorded from beginning to end the heartbreaking narrative of the epic four-year war (1861-1865) in which 750,000 lives were lost. This traveling exhibition will explore, through photography, the full pathos of the brutal conflict that, after 150 years, still looms large in the American public’s imagination.

At the start of the Civil War, the nation’s photography galleries and image purveyors were overflowing with a variety of photographs of all kinds and sizes, many examples of which will be featured in the exhibition: portraits made on thin sheets of copper (daguerreotypes), glass (ambrotypes), or iron (tintypes), each housed in a small decorative case; and larger, “painting-sized” likenesses on paper, often embellished with India ink, watercolour, and oils. On sale in bookshops and stationers were thousands of photographic portraits on paper of America’s leading statesmen, artists, and actors, as well as stereographs of notable scenery from New York’s Broadway to Niagara Falls to the canals of Venice. Viewed in a stereopticon, the paired images provided the public with seeming three-dimensionality and the charming pleasure of traveling the world in one’s armchair.

Photography and the Civil War will include: intimate studio portraits of armed Union and Confederate soldiers preparing to meet their destiny; battlefield landscapes strewn with human remains; rare multi-panel panoramas of the killing fields of Gettysburg and destruction of Richmond; diagnostic medical studies of wounded soldiers who survived the war’s last bloody battles; and portraits of Abraham Lincoln as well as his assassin John Wilkes Booth. The exhibition features groundbreaking works by Mathew B. Brady, George N. Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan, among many others. It also examines in-depth the important, if generally misunderstood, role played by Brady, perhaps the most famous of all wartime photographers, in conceiving the first extended photographic coverage of any war. The exhibition addresses the widely held, but inaccurate, belief that Brady produced most of the surviving Civil War images, although he actually made very few field photographs during the conflict. Instead, he commissioned and published, over his own name and imprint, negatives made by an ever-expanding team of field operators, including Gardner, O’Sullivan, and Barnard.

The exhibition will feature Gardner’s haunting views of the dead at Antietam in September 1862, which are believed to be the first photographs of the Civil War seen in a public exhibition. A reporter for the New York Times wrote on October 20, 1862, about the images shown at Brady’s New York City gallery: “Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it… Here lie men who have not hesitated to seal and stamp their convictions with their blood – men who have flung themselves into the great gulf of the unknown to teach the world that there are truths dearer than life, wrongs and shames more to be dreaded than death.”

Approximately 1,000 photographers worked separately and in teams to produce hundreds of thousands of photographs – portraits and views – that were actively collected during the period (and over the past century and a half) by Americans of all ages and social classes. In a direct expression of the nation’s changing vision of itself, the camera documented the war and also mediated it by memorialising the events of the battlefield as well as the consequent toll on the home front.

Among the many highlights of the exhibition will be a superb selection of early wartime portraits of soldiers and officers who sat for their likenesses before leaving their homes for the war front. In these one-of-a-kind images, a picture of American society emerges. The rarest are ambrotypes and tintypes of Confederates, drawn from the renowned collection of David Wynn Vaughan, who has assembled the country’s premier archive of Southern portraits. These seldom-seen photographs, and those by their Northern counterparts, will balance the well-known and often-reproduced views of bloody battlefields, defensive works, and the specialised equipment of 19th-century war.

The show will focus special attention on the remarkable images included in the two great wartime albums of original photographs: Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of War and George N. Barnard’s Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, both released in 1866. The former publication includes 100 views commissioned, sequenced, and annotated by Alexander Gardner. This two-volume opus provides an epic documentation of the war seen through the photographs of 11 artists, including Gardner himself. It features 10 plates of Gettysburg, including Timothy O’Sullivan’s A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, and Gardner’s Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, both of which are among the most well-known and important images from the early history of photography. The second publication includes 61 large-format views by a single artist, George N. Barnard, who followed the army campaign of one general, William Tecumseh Sherman, in the final months of the war – the “March to the Sea” from Tennessee to Georgia in 1864 and 1865. The exhibition explores how different Barnard’s photographs are from those in Gardner’s Sketch Book, and how distinctly Barnard used the camera to serve a nation trying to heal itself after four long years of war and brother-versus-brother bitterness.

Among the most extraordinary, if shocking, photographs in the exhibition are the portraits by Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou of wounded and sick soldiers from the war’s last battles. Drawn from a private medical teaching album put together by this Civil War surgeon and head of Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C., and on loan from the celebrated Burns Archive, the photographs are notable for their humanity and their aesthetics. They recall Walt Whitman’s words from 1865, that war “was not a quadrille in a ball-room. Its interior history will not only never be written, its practicality, minutia of deeds and passions, will never be suggested.” Bontecou’s medical portraits offer a glimpse of what the poet thought was not possible.

In addition to providing a thorough analysis of the camera’s incisive documentation of military activity and its innovative use as a teaching tool for medical doctors, the exhibition explores other roles that photography played during the war. It investigates the relationship between politics and photography during the tumultuous period and presents exceptional political ephemera from the private collection of Brian Caplan, including: a rare set of campaign buttons from 1860 featuring original tintype portraits of the competing candidates; a carved tagua nut necklace featuring photographic portraits of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and two members of his cabinet; and an extraordinary folding game board composed of photographic likenesses of President Lincoln and his generals. The show also includes an inspiring carte de visite portrait of the abolitionist and human rights activist Sojourner Truth. A former slave from New York State, she sold photographs of herself to raise money to educate emancipated slaves, and to support widows, orphans, and the wounded. And finally the exhibition includes the first photographically illustrated “wanted” poster, a printed broadside with affixed photographic portraits that led to the capture John Wilkes Booth and his fellow conspirators after the assassination of President Lincoln in April 1865.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Unknown, American. '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' April 20, 1865

 

Unknown (American)
[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]
Artist: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company (American, active Boston)
Photography Studio: Unknown
April 20, 1865
Ink on paper with three albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Sheet: 60.5 x 31.3cm (23 13/16 x 12 5/16 in.)
Each photograph: 8.6 x 5.4cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Collages
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

On the night of April 14, 1865, just five days after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. Within twenty-four hours, Secret Service director Colonel Lafayette Baker had already acquired photographs of Booth and two of his accomplices. Booth’s photograph was secured by a standard police search of the actor’s room at the National Hotel; a photograph of John Surratt, a suspect in the plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, was obtained from his mother, Mary (soon to be indicted as a fellow conspirator), and David Herold’s photograph was found in a search of his mother’s carte-de-visite album. The three photographs were taken to Alexander Gardner’s studio for immediate reproduction. This bill was issued on April 20, the first such broadside in America illustrated with photographs tipped onto the sheet.
The descriptions of the alleged conspirators combined with their photographic portraits proved invaluable to the militia. Six days after the poster was released Booth and Herold were recognised by a division of the 16th New York Cavalry. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, demanded their unconditional surrender when he cornered the two men in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold complied; Booth refused. Two Secret Service detectives accompanying the cavalry, then set fire to the barn. Booth was shot as he attempted to escape; he died three hours later. After a military trial Herold was hanged on July 7 at the Old Arsenal Prison in Washington, D.C.
 Surratt escaped to England via Canada, eventually settling in Rome. Two years later a former schoolmate from Maryland recognised Surratt, then a member of the Papal Guard, and he was returned to Washington to stand trial. In September 1868 the charges against him were nol-prossed after the trial ended in a hung jury. Surratt retired to Maryland, worked as a clerk, and lived until 1916.

 

Attributed to McPherson & Oliver (American, active New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1860s) 'The Scourged Back' April 1863

 

Attributed to McPherson & Oliver (American, active New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1860s)
The Scourged Back
April 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.7 x 5.5cm (3 7/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
International Center of Photography, Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee, 2003

 

 

Gordon, a runaway slave seen with severe whipping scars in this haunting carte-de-visite portrait, is one of the many African Americans whose lives Sojourner Truth endeavoured to better. Perhaps the most famous of all known Civil War-era portraits of slaves, the photograph dates from March or April 1863 and was made in a camp of Union soldiers along the Mississippi River, where the subject took refuge after escaping his bondage on a nearby Mississippi plantation.

On Saturday, July 4, 1863, this portrait and two others of Gordon appeared as wood engravings in a special Independence Day feature in Harper’s Weekly. McPherson & Oliver’s portrait and Gordon’s narrative in the newspaper were extremely popular, and photography studios throughout the North (including Mathew B. Brady’s) duplicated and sold prints of The Scourged Back. Within months, the carte de visite had secured its place as an early example of the wide dissemination of ideologically abolitionist photographs.

 

J. W. Jones (American, active Orange, Massachusetts, 1860s) 'Emaciated Union Soldier Liberated from Andersonville Prison' 1865

 

J. W. Jones (American, active Orange, Massachusetts, 1860s)
Emaciated Union Soldier Liberated from Andersonville Prison
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 9 x 5.5cm (3 9/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Brian D. Caplan Collection

 

 

Most soldiers who survived Andersonville Prison were marked for life. This portrait of an unidentified former prisoner is one of many that document the intense cruelty of prison life during the Civil War. It would be another eighty years, at the end of World War II, before anyone would see comparable pictures of man’s inhumanity to man.

 

George Wertz (American, active Kansas City, Missouri, 1860s) 'Private William Henry Lord, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry' 1863-65

 

George Wertz (American, active Kansas City, Missouri, 1860s)
Private William Henry Lord, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry
1863-65
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.4 x 5.6cm (3 5/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg Collection

 

 

Private William Henry Lord, a cavalryman, sits alert and ready for the next ride. A yet unmuddied enlistee from “Bleeding Kansas,” the last state to enter the Union before Fort Sumter, Lord was in the Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry; he was wounded in the shoulder in October 1864 but rejoined his company and was mustered out in September 1865.

 

Unknown. 'March from Annapolis to Washington, Robert C. Rathbone, Sergeant Major, Seventh Regiment, New York Militia' April 24, 1861

 

Unknown photographer
March from Annapolis to Washington, Robert C. Rathbone, Sergeant Major, Seventh Regiment, New York Militia
April 24, 1861
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.9 x 5.4cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/8 in.)
Michael J. McAfee Collection

 

 

The Seventh Regiment, New York Militia was among the first military groups to leave for Washington, D.C., after Lincoln’s call to arms in April 1861. In or near Annapolis, en route to the nation’s capital, Sergeant Major Rathbone posed for his portrait. He annotated his likeness with enough information to suggest that this image might be the first (identifiable) photograph of a soldier made after the fall of Fort Sumter. Representative of thousands of similar portraits, this study of an officer seen against a blank wall with just a hint of a studio column is typical of the simplicity of the earliest war pictures.

Note the stand just visible behind Sergeant Major Rathbone’s feet to brace the sitter for the long exposures necessary.

 

Mathew B. Brady (American, near Lake George, New York 1823?–1896 New York) 'General Robert E. Lee' 1865

 

Mathew B. Brady (American, near Lake George, New York 1823? – 1896 New York)
General Robert E. Lee
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
14 × 9.3 cm (5 1/2 × 3 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. The Civil War was over. If not whole, the nation was at least reunited, and the slow recovery of Reconstruction could begin. As soon as he heard that Lee had left Appomattox and returned to Richmond, Mathew B. Brady headed there with his camera equipment. The Lees’ Franklin Street residence had survived the fires that had devastated many of the commercial sections of the city. Through the kindness of Mrs. Lee and a Confederate colonel, Brady received permission to photograph the general on April 16, 1865, just two days after President Lincoln’s assassination. Brady’s portrait of General Lee holding his hat, on his own back porch, is one of the most reflective and thoughtful wartime likenesses. The fifty-eight-year-old Confederate hero poses in the uniform he had worn at the surrender. It would be Brady’s last wartime photograph.

 

Charles Paxson (American, active New York, 1860s) 'Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans' 1863

 

Charles Paxson (American, active New York, 1860s)
Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.4 x 5.3cm (3 5/16 x 2 1/16 in.)
Private Collection, Courtesy of William L. Schaeffer

 

 

On January 30, 1864, to fan the anti-slavery cause and promote the sale of abolitionist photographs, Harper’s Weekly published this carte de visite and three others as wood engravings. The newspaper also included stirring bibliographies of the emancipated slaves. The editors noted that Wilson Chinn was about sixty years old. His former master, Volsey B. Marmillion, a sugar planter near New Orleans, “was accustomed to brand his negroes, and Wilson has on his forehead the letters ‘V.B.M.'”

 

Gayford & Speidel (Active Rock Island, Illinois, 1860s) 'Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry' January-May 1865

 

Gayford & Speidel (Active Rock Island, Illinois, 1860s)
Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry
January-May 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.8 x 5.4cm (3 7/16 x 2 1/8 in.)
Thomas Harris Collection

 

Samuel Masury (American, 1818-1874) 'Frances Clalin Clayton' 1864-66

 

Samuel Masury (American, 1818-1874)
Frances Clalin Clayton
1864-66
Albumen silver print from glass negative
9.4 x 5.6cm (3 11/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Buck Zaidel Collection

 

 

Frances Clayton is an exception – a woman who served in the Union army by disguising herself as a man. In a popular carte de visite collected by soldiers at the end of the war, she poses here as Jack Williams and suggestively holds the handle of a cavalry sword between her crossed legs. The facts of her life story and military service are difficult to confirm, but it is believed that she served in the Missouri cavalry (or infantry) beside her husband, who died at the Battle of Stones River in late December 1862.

 

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907) 'Private Samuel Shoop, Company F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry' April-May 1865

 

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907)
Private Samuel Shoop, Company F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry
April-May 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18.9 × 13.1cm (7 7/16 × 5 3/16 in.)
Gift of Stanley B. Burns, M.D. and The Burns Archive, 1992

 

 

The last great battle of the Civil War was the siege of Petersburg, Virginia – a brutal campaign that led to Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865. Samuel Shoop, a twenty-five-year-old private in Company F of the 200th Pennsylvania Volunteers, received a gunshot wound in the thigh at Fort Steadman on the first day of the campaign (March 25) and was evacuated to Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. His leg was amputated by Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou, surgeon in charge, who also made this clinical photograph. It was intended, in part, to serve as a tool for teaching fellow army surgeons and is an extremely rare example of the early professional use of photography in America.

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah' 1866

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
34 x 26.4cm (13 3/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

 

Unknown. 'Sojourner Truth, "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance"' 1864

 

Unknown photographer
Sojourner Truth, “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance”
1864
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Carte-de-visite
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2013
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on gender inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Mathew B. Brady (American (born Ireland), 1823/24-1896 New York) Edward Anthony (American, 1818-1888) 'Abraham Lincoln' February 27, 1860

 

Mathew B. Brady (American (born Ireland), 1823/24-1896 New York)
Edward Anthony (American, 1818-1888)
Abraham Lincoln
February 27, 1860
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Carte-de-visite
The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation

 

 

Three months before his nomination as the Republican Party candidate for president, Abraham Lincoln went East, stopping in New York City on February 27, 1860, to give a speech at the Cooper Institute (now the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art). Many considered Lincoln’s powerful antislavery lecture as his most important to date. The closing words spurred his audience and the country at large: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Earlier in the day he sat for this portrait at Mathew B. Brady’s gallery on Broadway and Tenth Street, just a few blocks from the lecture hall. Although his visit to the studio could not have lasted long, the result of this first of many portrait sessions with Brady was a simple but powerful image that would alter the visual landscape during the upcoming election. In a single exposure on a silver-coated sheet of glass, Brady captured the odd physiognomy of the man who would change the course of American history.

 

Unknown. '[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]' 1861-62?

 

Unknown photographer
[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]
1861-62?
Ambrotype
Sixth-plate; ruby glass
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image: Jack Melton

 

 

This portrait of a cavalryman is an excellent example of a well-armed Confederate soldier. Private House wears a slouch hat and a checked battle shirt seen through the gaps in a modified woollen shell jacket with tabbed button closures. He brandishes his fighting knife and for quick use has half removed a pocket revolver from its belted holster. Perhaps the most frightening weapons in House’s personal arsenal may be his focused stare and his set jaw.

16th Cavalry Battalion was assembled in May, 1862, at Big Shanty, Georgia, and was composed of six companies. It served in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and took part in the engagements at Blue Springs, Bean’s Station, Cloyd’s Mountain, and Marion. In January, 1865, the battalion merged into the 13th Georgia Cavalry Regiment. Lieutenant Colonels F.M. Nix and Samuel J. Winn, and Major Edward Y. Clarke were its commanding officers.

 

Unknown. '[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]' 1861-62? (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee] (detail)
1861-62?
Ambrotype
Sixth-plate; ruby glass
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image: Jack Melton

 

Unknown, American. 'Union Sergent John Emery' 1861-65

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Union Sergent John Emery
1861-65
Tintype
Plate: 8.9 x 6.4cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.)
Case: 10 × 8.9cm (3 15/16 × 3 1/2 in.)
The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2012

 

 

The only details presently known about this handsome, young Union sergeant wearing a striped bowtie and an imported English snake belt buckle derive from a small paper note found behind the portrait inside the thermoplastic case: “Uncle John Emery / brother of / Lucy King / buried at E. Concord / died in 1876 / buried at back in right corner.”

 

Unknown. '[Private Thomas Gaston Wood, Drummer, Company H, "Walton Infantry," Eleventh Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry]' 1861

 

Unknown photographer
[Private Thomas Gaston Wood, Drummer, Company H, “Walton Infantry,” Eleventh Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry]
1861
Tintype
Plate: 6.4 x 5.1cm (2 1/2 x 2 in.)
David Wynn Vaughan Collection

 

 

Private Wood sits against a blank wall in a photographer’s studio. He is sixteen years old and will not see seventeen. An orphan, he joined Company H in Social Circle, Georgia, on July 3, 1861, and before the end of the year died of pneumonia in a Richmond hospital. Wood seems proud of his shell jacket and especially his kepi, which he marked under the brim with his initials. The photographer tipped up the cap to reveal the sitter’s handiwork, but the letters are laterally reversed in the tintype. As a musician, he poses without any prop other than his uniform, the buttons touched with gold.

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96

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