Knowing It When You See It, Part I UPDATE
Ramona, Remika, Tennielle, and Vondean NOCKETTA (aka the Jirrawun Girls),
You Big Hole, 2006, Ochres and pigment with acrylic binder on Belgian linen, 4 panels, 120 x 120cm. See Sherman Galleries website for more information.
Here's some background information about the artists:
The collectors have noted that they wish to discuss what their response to the decision to cover the work (if any) should be with the artists themselves, and they make a very valid point about why this is problematic. From their email:
The Jirrawun Girls are four sisters, Ramona Nockeyya aged 15, Remika Nocketta aged 17. Tennielle Nocketta 18 and Vondean Nocketta 21. They were born in Derby Hospital while their parents were living in Halls Creek. Their father, Major Clyde is a Gurindji man and nephew of Vincent Lingiari (one of the greatest Aboriginal leaders of all time, but best known for his historic photo with Gough Whitlam). Their mother Kitty Nockette is a Gija woman whose mother is the artist Nora Nocketta. Other close relatives are the extremely talented artists Phyllis Thomas, Peggy Patrick (her exhibition Blood on the Spinifex at the National Gallery of Victoria told of the Mistake Creek massacre of her forefathers) and Goody Barrett.
The Jirrawun Girls are named after the Jirrawun Arts centre, which was established to provide financial security and peace of mind to Aboriginal artists (who were often exploited by commercial galleries), so that they could simply live to paint.
The sisters lived in Halls Creek, Crocodile Hole, Warmun and Kununurra. They lived at Crocodile Hole when Jirrawun Arts was based there and attended Doon Doon School. Remika and Ramona currently attend the Barramundi Special School in Kununurra. Vondean has a two-year-old daughter, Leshante, and Teneille has a one-year-old, Alexandra. Vondean has been on the Homeswest waiting list for three years and will wait another two years for a state supplied house. They surive by living between family members and extended family members’houses. There is no stability, no home base. They are particularly vulnerable because of overcrowded housing.
Their painting Kununurra Midnight Prowl, similar to the one showing in Orange Regional Gallery, will be showing in an International exhibition in Belgrade, later this month. The exhibition, titled Art, Life and Confusion, was curated by the highly respected German curator Rene Block. The exhibition asks the question “what is the relationship between art and life with all its confusion today?” - the collapse of political systems, the dissolution of existing value systems, and the massive social changes brought about by globalisation, which are leading to an ever-greater sense of insecurity. Traditional structures are challenged, as confusion mounts as to which values and social orders are to hold valid for our coexistence with each other.
---Brenda Gray, Education Officer, Orange Regional Gallery
We don't (in a very large way) feel that it is up to us to decide how the situation should be handled, so we are contacting the artist today and we'll decide how best it should be handled.[...]The other thing that is annoying for us, is that the work is now being viewed out of the context of the exhibition and that it is ruining the exhibition for the other artists. [emphasis mine]I have to say I was surprised at the ages of the artists. Learning that they're not having such an easy time in their early years, I began to wonder about what it means that their artistic expression of the reality they live is too harsh for some people. (Imagine if those same people were faced with that actual reality.)
This in turn brings me back to something I've always known was true. That there is no topic too taboo for art (i.e., there's no such thing as immoral art). If it reflects someone's reality, then it's merely well done or poorly done. The notion that art viewers need to be protected from the harher aspects of what other people, especially children, have to actually live suggests a twisted set of priorities to my mind.