Emerging Gamilaraay artist Juanita McLauchlan is showcasing her work about land, country and family, through her exhibition gii mara-bula / Heart Hand as part of Wagga Wagga Art Gallery’s Winter Exhibition Program.
The gallery is set to launch the program, focusing on ecological concerns and offering insights into life across the Riverina, on Saturday 13 May, at 4 pm.
Inspired by her family, Juanita’s 18 artworks draw upon her Gamilaraay identity, history and language to explore family connections in ambitious new works focussing on personal belongings and body adornments.
The Wagga artist said she was approached by the gallery’s director Dr Lee-Anne Hall, and curator Julie Ewington for an exhibition last year.
“I jumped at the opportunity … it was massive for me to see my work beyond living in drawers and boxes,” Juanita said.
“My mentors have been there through the whole of making these works and they’re now here for the delivery of my expression.”
Juanita said she felt excited and overwhelmed with emotions to be involved in a showcase on this scale for the first time.
The exhibition was 10 months in the making for the local artist who has been developing it in between working and raising five children.
“I need to have my hands working constantly otherwise, you get a little bit lost.
“I love the whole process of actual making, the texture of the woollen blankets and the fur’s been the ultimate driving of where they need to be placed and what they become as well.”
Ms Ewington said Juanita’s work of woollen blankets and possum fur further expressed connectedness, love and affection.
“This is a brand new innovative work by an emerging artist and I’ve seen nothing like it before,” Ms Ewington said.
“We’ve got beautiful necklaces made out of woollen blankets and possum skin, which brings both sides of the artist’s family heritage together, the English side and the Aboriginal.
“There are enormous necklaces of 2 – 3 m hanging which express the grandeur of the ideas, that continuity through time and generations,” she said.
Juanita said her favourite piece was the blanket called Everywhen – a yellow blanket.
“It has a deeper and special meaning … it has the Southern Cross on there.
“I’ve always been fascinated with astrology, Southern Cross and animals.
“It has the connection of home for me,” she said.
Ms Ewington said it felt ‘terrific’ to be back in Wagga.
“I love it here, it’s always wonderful to be back … this is a beautiful place,” she said.
The possum fur used in the artworks was ethically sourced from New Zealand.
Four new environmentally challenging exhibitions and two exhibitions offering insights into life across the Riverina will be featured in the exhibition.
A special artist talk will be held prior to the launch with local and internationally exhibiting artists.
The artist panel will feature Nicola Dickson and Juanita McLauchlan, along with Ms Ewington and local academic and artist Dr Chris Orchard.
Along with Juanita, other featured artists include Hayden Fowler and Nicola Dickson.
Hayden’s exhibition UnEarthly presents two decades of video work based upon his performance, sculpture and installation works which explore the intersections between human and animal natures, and the revitalisation of the natural world.
Ms Dixon’s Only a Remnant explores biodiversity loss in the Riverina, centring upon the box gum grassy woodlands that once covered much of south-eastern Australia and were the homelands of First Nations Peoples including the Wiradjuri nation.
Dr Hall said themes explored in the winter program were in line with the gallery’s year of environmentally focused exhibitions and programs, GREEN 2023.
“Our programs aim to encourage community conversation and explore an often confronting but critical topic of sustainability,” Dr Hall said.
Local painter Tracey Jones was selected as part of the gallery’s 2023 Regional Artist Development (RAD) program.
The result of her four-week residency is revealed in 60 Miles as the Crow Flies, which explores quintessential rural streetscapes across the Riverina.
The Winter Exhibition Program launch event will be on Saturday 13 May as follows.
The artist talk with Hayden Fowler will run from 11 am to noon. The artist panel – ‘Making art on and about country, place and identity’ will run from 2:30 pm to 3:45 pm.
The launch will run from 4 pm to 6 pm.
Bookings are essential for the free event, as places are limited. Click here to make your bookings.