Way too tough/Way too wild


Way too Wild, 2018, digital montage, limited edition prints

Way too Tough, 2018, digital montage, limited ed prints.

Splendid Shot, 2018, found animal bones and mixed media

Exhibited as part of Heysen Landscape Prize, Hahndorf Gallery, 2018.

As a visual artist I draw on the social context of images and objects through the stories they carry to find meaningful ways to evoke more nuanced complexities often absent within the narratives of history. 

From a family photo collection I came across photographs of two unidentified women in fashions that date them from around the late nineteenth century. The bouquets of dead flowers suggests they were widowed at the time the photos were taken.   Early widowhood and desertion by husbands was a common experience for settler women in Australia, yet employment opportunities were scarce for women left to support themselves and their families.  In 1854 my ancestor Mary Bailey, a mother of seven children, became widowed when her husband John, suddenly died in his 40s. He passed away in the pub they ran, and had his funeral in another public house up the road. The law enabled her to transfer her late husband’s liquor licence to her name,  and thus she continued to run public houses to support her family until her death in 1882.

Despite women not yet having the right to vote,  this was at a time when women as hotel keepers were seen as an important influence in governing the masculine environments of public houses by ‘tempering’ the atmosphere.  To do this, Mary Bailey would have had to perform her duties by complying with the encoded Victorian values of feminine social conduct in terms of good manners, moral restraint and modesty. 1

As a visual response to this history, I sought not only to subvert and disrupt feminine stereotypes from that time, but also to amplify the relational disconnect of the colonising mindset from the natural environment, a mindset that we still see today. Embedded in this image are a gun made from animal bones, a wild dog that has been culled and strung up on a road sign, beer bottles and a pewter mug – all carriers of entangled memories from the past into the present.  

  1. Clare Wright. Beyond the Ladies Lounge: Australia’s female publicans. Melbourne University Press, 2003.