Although there may be tragedy in your life, there’s always a possibility to triumph. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always….. Oprah Winfrey
Life has been frantic lately, yet that hasn’t appeared to be the case on here. On this, my web page, you’d think I was taking a lazy summer holiday, yet the complete opposite has been happening. As you will know if you’ve read the blog post Words Can’t Explain, you’ll be aware that I’ve been working with a group of artists who form Emerge 2017 and I’ve actually had the incredible opportunity to speak at the Art Gallery of NSW. This is a group under the umbrella of Front Up which is an arts and cultural program founded by Ability Options and is based in Western Sydney. Last week, a joint exhibition called “Onion Reality” opened and my work was part of this.
The body of work I completed for the exhibition was in response to two pieces of work I saw at the Art Gallery of NSW. These were by Mikala Dwyer and Nicholas Mangan and transported me straight back to my childhood. What should have been a lovely bit of nostalgia, was, for me, quite traumatic. In revisiting the trauma, I started to realise that my love of reading had helped me to emotionally escape the sexual abuse I suffered from a very early age, as I learned to step out of my body and wander to fantasy lands where I was loved and protected.
By using photography and digital manipulation, along with props, costumes and make up, I recreated the stories of my childhood with me as the central figure, thus rewriting my story so that the imaginary characters that walked by my side protected me and overshadowed the evil sibling who subjected me to untold horror. I wanted to convey the beauty of stepping into a book and how an absorbing story can become a buffer from a cruel world. So I set to work creating an installation instead of sticking just with my usual photographic art.
With the help of my amazing son Lachlan from Purple Sky Productions, we worked to create the walk in story book I had imagined and when we had finished, I wanted to cry as it was exactly as I’d envisioned it. The whole concept is based on my belief that the imagination is one of the most powerful things we can encourage and nurture. I truly believe it is possible to rewrite your own Happily Ever After and I feel that this is what I’m currently doing. Walking past the front cover, you walk into a scene where a washerwoman has just hung the pages of a book out to dry on the clothes line, along with clothing and other images.
There are at least another 3 “chapters” to this story and they involve other areas of my life that have been touched by awful and tragic events that have reshaped my very soul. This chapter is entitled Run Run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m in storybook land. I’m currently preparing for the second chapter right now and I can’t wait to start on it. When they are all finished, I’ll begin the arduous task of finding the right gallery to take these installation chapters.
This “escaping into fantasy” theme is one that I’ve played with a few times but I’ve never done anything as personal as this before. Every image I’ve done in the past has a bit of me in it but will be such a vague nod to my experiences that only I understand on a deeper level, but this series has left me exposed and vulnerable, not just to the viewer but to myself. The next 3 chapters will be just as difficult but while I feel so overwhelmed at the thought of facing them, I am so very excited at the same time.
A huge thank you to Eily (mini me), Cassidy (mermaid), Ally (fairy), Rosalind (angel) and Lachlan (production). Without such amazing people, I couldn’t possibly have done this work. Also to Front Up, the art facilitators and my fellow artists at Emerge 17. I’m so proud to have worked alongside such inspirational people. I’ll show you more of the joint exhibition soon, but for now, here is Chapter One of From Fractured to Fairytale.