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.

Advertisements

The First Leaves of Autumn

We shared the brief but magic sun.  By the first leaves of autumn you were gone… Not until the rain has touched my face. Not until the first leaves fell from space.  Not until that moment did I see.  I never realised what you meant to me…..The Fureys

I’ve had a plan for a while now that I wanted to do the four seasons in a series of images.  I’d already done a spring setting which showed the lovely Kirsty sitting in a bath full of spring flowers with a corrugated iron backdrop called Wash Away the Day.  Where I live in the Blue Mountains, the trees are starting to produce the most magnificent colours with the beginning of Autumn so I was inspired to do the next image in the series which is Autumn.

So on Tuesday, I went out to the beautiful Collit’s Inn with my gorgeous model Rachael and my assistant extraordinaire, Kirsty.  The back of my little car was filled with camera equipment, candles, candle holders, ivy vines which had been painted gold and a myriad of other Autumn foliage.  We stopped at Blackheath on the way and gathered a few garbage bags full of fallen autumn leaves along the side of the road.  As I mentioned, the Blue Mountains is turning the most amazing colours at the moment.  The trees are a kaleidoscope of colour and the paths are carpeted in fallen leaves, so it was easy to pick up huge amounts of leaves without even being able to see where they were taken from.

Arriving at Collit’s Inn, we set about using the beautiful rustic bathtub that sits in their garden as a bench.  With Rachael sitting in the bath, we proceeded to cover her in the leaves and other foliage.  My mystical creative muse must also have been happy with the process as in the midst of a miserable day, the sun came out just as we started to set up which meant my lovely model wasn’t a mass of goosebumps from the cold.

After taking the necessary photos, everyone was still happy to keep going so I handed Rachael a red lace dress that I had put in the car, just in case.  I mean, why just do one theme when you have a model there and ready to go?  The red dress fitted beautifully so we went out in search of the local cemetery.

There was someone there when we arrived, so instead of disturbing someone visiting their loved ones, we moved on to another nearby cemetery.  I have the utmost respect for cemeteries and understand what special places they are, not just to the family and friends of those who had passed but also as a source of history.

We ended up at  Hartley Cemetery which is a lovely peaceful resting place and has many very old graves.  I’ve often called in there and taken a walk around the graves, reading about the people buried there.   We did a few photos there, one of which I posted yesterday, called Earthbound.   Just as we were heading to the car, the skies opened and the rain started.  We were definitely looked after by the weather Gods.

So here is the second in the Seasons in the Bath series, The First Leaves of Autumn.  I was a bit worried about trying to do something that could happily stand next to Wash Away the Day, as that image is one that I am the proudest of.  I have to say, I’m pretty chuffed with the way this has turned out.  It was definitely what I had in mind.  Now to start preparing for Winter..

The First Leaves of Autumn

 

What’s Your Story?

That’s what storytellers do.  We restore order with imagination.  We instil hope again and again….Walt Disney in Saving Mr Banks

I watched Saving Mr Banks again the other night.  I just love the movie.  Yes I’m sure it’s not a completely factual representation of how Walt Disney got PL Travers to sign over the Mary Poppins books to him, but I do know it’s based heavily on fact as the tapes made on her insistence during production meetings are still available and are a big part of what the movie was based on. And it means the world to me as Mary Poppins was the first book I ever read, albeit the read along with the record version.

As most of you will know, I am definitely a Disney tragic.  I love all things Disney.  I guess I instilled that same love into my children.  Before she died, my daughter Aimee’s dream was to become an animator with the Disney corporation.  Both my sons are as obsessed by Disney movies as I am and we often watch the classics over and over again.  Most of my favourite quotes are straight from Disney’s mouth.  And of course, like most kids born in the 50’s and 60’s, I longed to be adopted by Walt himself.  Not that I didn’t love my own parents but he was Walt Disney and his whole persona screamed gentle to me.

I suppose it’s not a great surprise that I like to consider myself a storyteller, as was my Grandmother before me.  Gargie would tell us stories of the old country and those stories made me feel that when I finally went to Ireland, I was coming home.  There is something special about a storyteller.  We all have it in us to tell the stories but some do more than tell the story, they add the romance and mystery that pulls us into it and makes us want to stay there.

Storytelling is as old as man himself.  The cavemen drew their stories in picture form on the walls of caves.  Each culture has passed it’s stories on to generation after generation to ensure it’s history is never forgotten.  Fairytales are part of our psyche.  Not every storyteller writes.  They may tell their story with words or in song or dance.  They may paint it or create it in some other form.  They may even act it out.  Storytelling is not just about writing a book.  I love writing.  I love creating.  I love photographing. I love singing.  I love acting.  These are all part of my love of storytelling.

I like to think that my gift in life… that thing that makes me unique, is the way I tell stories both in words and in pictures.  Others tell stories too. Wonderful inspiring stories,  but they are different to mine.  Not necessarily worse, not necessarily better, just different.  Their experiences are different so of course their stories and the way they tell them will be different.

2017 is going to be very much a year of storytelling.  New stories, old stories, real stories, imaginative stories.   I have so many exciting things happening and I intend documenting all the new and exciting things as well as continuing to tell the stories of old.  Bring it on I say.

To celebrate the new year, I’ve put together a bit of a presentation on what I believe storytelling to be and why it’s so important to us as a society.  We all have a story to tell.  What’s yours?

 

 

 

Gallery of Time

The most precious of all artworks, are those of our loved ones.  They are priceless.  Looking through a photo album is like taking a walk through the gallery of time……..Livonne

I love looking through old photo albums.  Not just of my own family, but any photo albums.  It’s like a time machine.  By opening that album, you’re taking a walk through time.  Photographs open up history and allow us to see where we came from.  I look at photos of my grandfather and see so much likeness in my son.  I look at photos of my grandmother and mother and see, without a doubt, who I take after.

In my opinion, the camera is one of the most important and powerful inventions in history.  Cameras have documented the moments we want to remember and the black moments.   World wars, moonlandings, landmarks being erected, landmarks being torn down, great sporting moments, births, deaths, marriages…..so many amazing moments in history, both good and bad, have been recorded since the first photo was taken in 1814.

Would I love one of the great masters hanging on my wall?  Yes!  I would love to have the original of  L’Amour et Psyché (the First Kiss) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau  hanging on my wall.  But not if I had to give up my own gallery of family memories in return. The photos I have of the people who have shaped my very life can’t be replaced.  I’ll stick with the print of my favourite painting and have it hanging next to my beloved angel daughter’s photo.

One day, the photos I take today will be the old family photos that my grandchildren and great  grandchildren will look at.  I hope they are as enamoured by their very own gallery of time, as I’ve always been by mine.  Hopefully one day, they’ll look and say, “Wow.. I look like my great grandmother”.  Hopefully they’ll walk the corridors of history and connect with us today.

I saw a great meme the other day, showing the differences in generations.  Two photos:  One said 2016 and was a beautiful old sepia photo showing an elegant woman from the 20’s maybe, posing solemnly for a photo, .. the other said 2090 and was a young girl in underwear, posing provocatively with the usual duck face pout happening, camera in hand, taking her own in a mirror.  The caption?  Honey I found a photo of your grandmother.

Go out, take photos.  Take fun ones but also take good ones.. or get some professional photos taken.  Let’s leave a photo album full of photos our descendants will want to wander through.

Gallery of Time