A FAILED VIRGIN

The Artist

My first ten years of life were impoverished and unstable largely due to the behaviour of my alcoholic father, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a lot of fun too. It’s going back a long way, and living in pre-trendy Paddington in Sydney, exposed to the raucous, arty, shifting under-class of the 1950’s had an indelible effect. As an only child, the ability to occupy myself creatively in an adult world gave me a small but tough centre, which also meant no one bothered me much. The centre stayed, though it was a long, circuitous route back to it.

When life limply turned a page and dumped me, aged nine into the rigorous, Victorian household of my grandparents, a great-aunt and an invalid, now single mother, the seeds of anarchy were planted. Eight boring years of school in Melbourne scrunched me into a low-achieving, directionless ‘young lady’ competent in cooking, sewing and diction. I went nursing to escape from home and promptly discovered the joys of middle-class rebellion, but even that was tempered by the voice of my now deceased mother telling me to behave and, find a husband!

After an assortment of dull jobs, at the age of twenty and feeling the need for someone to ‘take care of me’, I married a man I barely knew. That lasted four and a half years and then, two years later I remarried. Despite my second husband being better known to me and the serious dedication with which I embraced motherhood and our Christian vows, the relationship was an even greater disaster than the first! Something was amiss. Clearly, my idea of love was an immature one, stemming from fears of abandonment and years of hiding from my true self.

The world had slipped a bit and my creative output had become taut and thin to accommodate that shift. I think that’s what often happens ‘to’ our lives, especially women’s when we allow it. When cumulative slippage occurs through many years of family, career and marriage-go-rounds, we are suddenly faced with a giant crack in our perceived reality. That’s where my art comes from, an attempt to realign the fissure, not by patching but by exposing the foundations.

It took nearly forty years of a rather chaotic life to produce something I felt had meaning for me. Something, which despite my life of doubt and self-loathing, along with a desperate desire to be liked by everyone I met, finally came to fruition. Previously my creativity had been sporadic at best, dropping out of art school, writing and directing student films, acting plus dabbling in oils, pastels and numerous craft mediums. But the whole time I was constrained by my upbringing to be a ‘good’ girl, to comply and not trust my own intuition.

It was a trip to England and Europe with my then partner, a history lecturer, and my exposure first hand to religious art finally made me question the relationship between old and new images of women. Returning home I began experimenting with various mediums and themes. The Foolish Virgins emerged first, being a somewhat over the top reaction to the whole subject, a new found rebellion perhaps, followed by The Seven Saints and their accompanying sculptures and finally, The Life of A Virgin. It wasn’t until I’d finished that I realised my unconscious had unraveled itself in black and white for all to see.

PAPER VIRGINS