9 April 2024

Wagga artist takes centre stage at NSW Parliament

| Chris Roe
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Wagga poet David Gilby, artist Juanita McLauchlan and MP Dr Joe McGirr.

Wagga poet David Gilby, artist Juanita McLauchlan and MP Dr Joe McGirr. Photo: Supplied.

For the second time in a week, Wagga artist Juanita McLauchlan is making headlines, after opening an exhibition at Parliament House in Sydney.

Standing at the Heart of Seven Generations opens just days after her appointment as an artist-in-residence at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

“I’m nervous but excited to think of all the people who will see my exhibition in Parliament House,” she said.

“The foot traffic is amazing and while we were installing, we had three or four different school groups come through and different people just walk through and take a look.

“I don’t think I realised just how many people visit Parliament House every day, so it’s just a real privilege.”

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Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr is a fan of Juanita’s work and helped facilitate the exhibition at parliament’s Fountain Court.

“Dr Joe McGirr came through my solo exhibition at the Wagga Art Gallery last year and I think he fell in love with my work, which was amazing,” Juanita said.

“NSW Parliament House has an exhibition space with four walls in the Fountain Court and one of those is a Reconciliation Wall that is always dedicated to Indigenous art.

“It was an application process, so Dr Joe put the proposal forward and Dr Leanne Hall from the gallery worked with me on the application and I was fortunate enough to be given three walls through April this year.”

Dr McGirr opened the exhibition on Thursday and was full of praise for one of the Riverina’s rising creative stars.

“I’m honoured to have been able to help Juanita tell this remarkable story to a big audience at parliament,” he said.

“It’s a wonderful celebration of Indigenous culture and how that relates to improving reconciliation in the years ahead by learning from the present and past.

“I urge Sydneysiders and visitors to make time to visit parliament next month to enjoy and learn from Juanita’s exploration of themes important to all of us, regardless of our cultural heritage.”

Juanita’s solo exhibition features her signature large-scale sculptural necklaces made from woollen blankets and possum skins, large eco-printed blankets featuring imprints from plants around Wagga and a new series of five mixed media works on paper.

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Standing at the Heart of Seven Generations explores the meeting of cultures and how the past shapes the future and is built on an understanding of history, familial relationships and Country.

“The woollen blankets represent European colonisation but also the possum skins combine European and Aboriginal cultures to create garments we can wear as one, which is something I hope people can relate to,” she said.

“The theme of seven generations comes from First Nations cultures – not just in Australia but around the world – with the idea that we leave resources and knowledge for future generations to benefit and learn from.

“Of course, our children come after us, but we are the leaders and shapers so it’s like planting a tree now that people will enjoy for the next seven generations.”

The exhibition can be seen at NSW Parliament’s Fountain Court from 2 to 29 April.

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