If These Walls Could Speak

If these walls could speak, the screams would echo through the ages….Livonne

I am so far behind the eightball with this website this year and I just realised I hadn’t posted about an exhibition I was involved with earlier this year.  I was chosen as one of the artists to present an exhibition at the historic Woodford Academy in the Blue Mountains.

It was aptly named If These Walls Could Speak, and if you’ve ever been to the Woodford Academy you’d know why.  It is one of the oldest buildings in the mountains and has a long, varied and sometimes tragic past.  Very important in Aboriginal history, the land became the site of a hotel and later in it’s life, a school.

This building is said to be haunted and I have to tell you, when I went there to scope out what I wanted to create for the exhibition, I felt the energy of past inhabitants.  There is an eerie feel about the place.  I ended up creating five images, all based on the spirits that I felt while I was there.  It wasn’t my imagination playing tricks on me, this place has some lingering spirits and they make their presence felt.

I walked upstairs to one of the bedrooms which is said to have been inhabited by Jessica McManamey who was the daughter of the original school master.  I went to the window and had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to jump.  I could then feel a frenetic energy swirling around in the room, from one place to another and to another.  There was a feeling of being trapped.  It was then I knew I had to create what I felt and Longing to Escape was the result.

Walking back down the stairs, I walked into what was the original bar room and on one wall is a beautiful Cartouche painted around the door frame.  I felt an overwhelming sadness surround me and our wonderful guide told us that it was probably painted by an itinerant artist in exchange for board and lodgings. He inspired me to make Creating the Cartouche.

Walking out into the courtyard, we walked into the kitchen.  It felt like a happy place.  Jennie, my friend who was with me started to smile and told me that there was a lovely lady in there with a huge wide smile and her name was Mabel.  While I didn’t see or feel her, I felt the contentment, so decided to create Mabel’s Morning.

Walking right out back into the garden felt a bit creepy to be honest but I put that down to having heard the story of Mary James who is said to haunt the place and is known as the Lady in White.  She was said to have killed herself though her husband was charged with her murder but eventually acquitted.  As she is the most well known of the lingering spirits, I knew she wanted her story to be told and so created Searching for the Truth.

At the front of the building is a plaque which commemorates the Transit of Venus in 1874 when early star gazers came to the property to get the best view of this event.  Out in the courtyard, I imagined their excitement when they saw the planets up close through the telescopes, in a time when they couldn’t look at the surface of a planet by Googling it as we have the privilege of doing so tried to convey this with the Transit of Venus.

I was pleased with what I created in these 5 images though they were very different to the kind of work I usually do.  I also created the Online Catalogue which is worth a look.  There were 9 artists and 4 poets in this exhibition, wonderfully curated by Susan Cochrane with the assistance of Saskia Everingham.  You can have a look at all the work that was included as well as read a few bits of history by clicking here.  If you are ever here in the mountains, try to go for a tour of the Academy or perhaps join one of the ghost tours presented there.

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