12 May 2022

Wiradjuri Artist captures moments of joy in nature and country

| Chris Roe
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Wiradjuri artist Elizabeth Doherty with her painting at the Curious Rabbit in Wagga Wagga

Wiradjuri artist Elizabeth Doherty is exhibiting at the Curious Rabbit in Wagga Wagga for the first time. Photo: Chris Roe.

Elizabeth Doherty describes the moment she came face to face with a wild cassowary while on her honeymoon in Cairns as “a moment of joy mixed with a slight bit of terror”.

The Wiradjuri artist has captured the encounter in the signature painting of her first exhibition My Secret Garden, showing at the Curious Rabbit Cafe in Wagga Wagga through May.

“It was absolutely beautiful to see a father cassowary with his chick, and it was one of the things I was hopeful of seeing because I love connecting with nature and with country,” she says.

Wiradjuri artist Elizabeth Doherty's exhibition of painting My Secret Garden is on display at the Curious Rabbit in Wagga Wagga

Elizabeth’s encounter with a wild cassowary is captured in the painting My Secret Garden. Photo: Chris Roe.

A passion for nature is evident in the collection of acrylic paintings and poems.

Elizabeth’s work combines figurative depictions of native animals with traditional Aboriginal designs. She hopes to encourage people to “connect with the moment” and treasure their own encounters with nature.

“That’s why there’s a Bogong moth included,” she says, indicating one of the collection’s smaller paintings depicting a brown moth fluttering above a handful of delicate white flowers.

“It’s a brief little tiny detail, but also something to find joy in.”

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Perhaps the most striking work in the exhibition is the cockatoo that looms large against a swirling backdrop of ochre and yellow on black called ‘The Hope that Dawn Brings’.

“I think that many people in the last two years have been through quite a difficult time, myself included,” she explains.

“So I’ve captured this cheeky cocky because I think hope isn’t always some odd emotion in the distance. It can be a little bit fun, a little bit quirky and it can be found in just the cheeky moment of watching a cockatoo engage with nature.”

Painting by Wiradjuri artist Elizabeth Doherty's on display at the Curious Rabbit in Wagga Wagga

‘The Hope that Dawn Brings’ expresses something about the hope and joy found in nature. Photo: Chris Roe.

While this is Elizabeth’s first exhibition, she says painting has always been part of her life. Her father teaches both art and drama and she was regularly enlisted to help out.

“He wanted help with backdrops for plays, so I grew up painting backdrops not painting small canvases,” she says.

“I think that’s why many of them are quite large.”

A student at Charles Sturt University, Elizabeth combines her study of art with psychology and hopes to work as an art therapist in the future.

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She says putting her art on display has been an emotional experience.

“It’s like baring your heart open in front of people, so you feel a little bit naked. But I think because of that, it’s also quite healing,” she says.

When asked to nominate a favourite, Elizabeth heads to the final painting on the wall, ‘A Moonlit meeting’.

“It was the start of showing people my art,” she says.

Wiradjuri artist Elizabeth Doherty's exhibition of painting My Secret Garden is on display at the Curious Rabbit in Wagga Wagga

Elizabeth Doherty’s first exhibition combines her painting and poetry. Photo: Chris Roe.

In the painting a family of possums and wrens gather in a bush garden around a hidden kangaroo, shadowed in traditional designs.

“People often don’t notice him at first; they think he’s a tree.,” she says.

“When they get closer, they’re like ‘oh’, which I kind of love because the more you look at nature, the more you see and hopefully the more people connect with country, the more they cherish it.”

My Secret Garden is showing at the Curious Rabbit Cafe through May alongside a selection of works from Indigenous printmaker Juanita McLauchlan entitled Tea and Time.

Original Article published by Chris Roe on About Regional.

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