Thursday, 23 January 2014

Research gems: Heartland

Alison Alder | Redback Graphix
Heartland, 1985
I love that each year, more and more is "findable" online. Just came across this delightful poster for the exhibition Heartland (1985) at Wollongong gallery.

According to Margot Neale, the exhibition of six women painters, was "considered a turning-point in the institutional regard for contemporary Australian women’s art".

I also find it really interesting that some of the names in posters, exhibitions, publications etc from this era are repeated again and again - Wendy Stavrianos in particular - and then they simply drop from the scene. I have absolutely no knowledge of her practice since the 1980s.

M Neale, ‘Past present continuous: the presentation and interpretation of Indigenous art’, in J Kerr & J Holder (eds), Past present: the national women’s art anthology, North Ryde, NSW, Craftsman House, c. 1999, p. 29.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Research gems: the Women's Warehouse

Lucifoil Poster Collective | Gene Malone
Fabulous Feminist Feast, 1980
Screenprint, NGA collection

Loving this quote from Susan Charlton, who moved to Sydney to take part in the film culture and women's scene of the Women's Warehouse.

The talk, film, music and action of the time was volatile, feral, and glamorous.

Susan Charlton, Women's Filmworker, Sydney Filmmakers Co-op.
UBU films catalogue, 1993.

And from Ludo McFerran:

In 1979 I was in a relationship with a woman who was a musician, and she said to me; “If you could be an instrument, what would you be?” And I thought I’d be a saxophone. Punk culture said you can do it—you just pick it up and blow it. So I got one and started playing, though after a while another musician friend said to me, “Not bad, but you’ve got the mouthpiece upside down!” I improved after that. Then the Women’s Warehouse happened. We rented a five-story warehouse in Haymarket, Sydney, with a printing press, a café, filmmakers, and a music co-op. It was all so flaming political. We thought that access to instruments and music lessons was privileged. So we pooled them, so that anyone could use them. Once a month we’d put on an event and anyone could play. Robin Archer might drop in. I’ll never forget the first time our band, The Stray Dags, played there. The audience started getting agitated, then getting up and I thought, oh no, we’re so bad they’re leaving, but then they started coming towards us, and I thought, we’re so bad they’re going to take the instruments off us, but then they started dancing! That was it—we became a dance band.

Ludo, musician, feminist, member of Stray Dags.
55 Uppity.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Research gems

Jude Adams in Toni Robertson's screenprint
International Women's Day, 1980

As it gets closer and closer to the end of the PhD I'm surprised at how little I've managed to write for this blog. Working my way through the final edits, there's no time for posts, but there are so many little research gems that it buoys my little heart, and makes me want to share them all. Look forward to quotes, anecdotes and pictures for the coming months.

Starting now! With a little anecdote from Jude Adams:

Toni Robertson and I did a trip around, during that WAM year (c. 1975), down to Adelaide and Melbourne to see women artists. I still have those old tapes somewhere. There was a woman we met in Melbourne called Ailsa O’Connor... She was associated with [the Melbourne Women's Art Forum]. She showed us paintings she did of Vietnam, fascinating. I remember her saying to us, because... she was much older, probably my age now... She said, ‘We women have waited a long time for your generation’. What she was saying was women artists from her period just didn’t have that body of support. They were isolated and it was a lovely, welcoming comment. We’ve been waiting for you to come.
From an interview with Jude Adams, Australian artist, feminist, writer, curator, member of the Sydney Women's Art Movement and Adelaide Women's Art Movement. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Doyleys galore!

Women's Domestic Needlework Group | Earthworks Poster Collective | Marie McMahon
Needlework is Her Story, 1976
National Gallery of Australia
I've just submitted the following abstract to this year's Feminist Art History Conference! I'm super super super crossing my fingers that I get accepted.

The conference is being held in Washington, USA, and will time nicely with two dear friends also being in the States. It's also the perfect opportunity for me and friend number one to visit some of the world's most amazing galleries - a promise we made to each other many moons ago. Not to mention visiting the US of A in general, something I'm yet to do.

I also think it's a faaaabulous topic. The Women's Domestic Needlework Group only takes up a teeny tiny bit of my thesis, but I have a wealth of images, articles and anecdotes to share, as I have very luckily been able to see quite a bit of what they produced, and interview the group's two leading women.

Also, I regoogled the group and the National Gallery of Australia has just recently digitised their collection of ten screenprints by them. I have seen a *lot* of screeprints in my time, but I think this collection is probably my favourite. Partly, they're wonderfully colourful. Partly, they were so clearly a group effort, symbolising this period of collectivity and collaboration, via the different drawing, lettering, layout etc styles. Partly, it's a great story, the group came together with members of the Earthworks Poster Collective and printed the whole set in one mad rush of a weekend. And partly they are just *so* of their time: wall text in the form of screenprinted posters! The language, the ideas, the interest, the aesthetics. Love love love. So cross your fingers for me cause I clearly want to write this paper!

Women's Domestic Needlework Group | Earthworks Poster Collective | Marie McMahon
Needlework Demonstrations, 1976
National Gallery of Australia

No Goddesses, No Mistresses: A tactile history of the Australian Women’s Domestic Needlework Group (c.1976–80)

In 1978, Frances Budden and Marie McMahon—artists, activists, anarchists, feminists, needleworkers—flew from Sydney to Los Angeles to assist with the creation of The Dinner Party. Confronted by the perceived hierarchical structure of Chicago’s studio, the pair responded by embroidering a secretive doyley, slipped under the place setting for Edith Smyth. It read: ‘no goddesses/no mistresses’.

As initiators of the Women’s Domestic Needlework Group, at Sydney University’s alternative exhibition and studio space, the Tin Sheds, Budden and McMahon’s experiences of feminism, collaboration and community engagement were heavily shaped by an era and ethos of collectivism. The Tin Sheds was home to a vibrant and transitory community of artists and activists. Elective tutorials, in Australia’s Whitlam-era of free tertiary education and strong funding for the arts, brought a mixture of students and young tutors to the gallery. As headquarters for the Earthworks Poster Collective, the space was connected to a plethora of social, cultural and political groups and activities. Posters were churned out for rallies, boycotts, dances and counter-cultural public service announcements. The gallery was also linked with women-only activities, specifically in the form of the Sydney Women’s Art Movement and its slide register, as well as feminist newspapers, separatist households and consciousness-raising groups.

In the midst of these women-only, artistic and activist groups, Budden and McMahon met via the Women’s Art Movement and bonded over their interest in doyleys. With encouragement from the Director of the Tin Sheds, Joan Grounds, the pair initiated needlework demonstrations and skills exchange workshops for women-only groups, sharing their interests and developing their skills with a broader group of women. As their collection of doyleys grew, complemented with self-made feminist-inspired, central core imagery doyleys and pieces embroidered with political slogans, the Women’s Domestic Needlework Group was formed to prepare the collection for exhibition. Research into the histories of needleworkers, techniques and symbols as a mean’s of recovering women’s cultural history was collated for an impressive exhibition catalogue, while the wall text took the form of ten brilliantly colourful and educational screenprinted posters. After a regional exhibition tour, the group negotiated housing of the collection with a significant state collecting institution, but the collection was sadly lost to a studio fire before negotiations were finalised.

This paper will provide a history of the formation and activity of the Women’s Domestic Needlework Group. Specifically it will demonstrate how the local artistic and cultural climate developed Budden’s use of doyleys in her own practice towards a shared collection and appreciation of needlework skills.
Women's Domestic Needlework Group | Earthworks Poster Collective
Working Women's Needlework, 1979
National Gallery of Australia
See the rest of the posters here: NGA Women's Domestic Needlework Group collection search