Tonight is the opening of ‘The Neck’, an exhibition I ‘cooked up’ whilst visiting my husband’s ancestral village earlier this year. Sagada is high in the mountains of the Philippines. We’ve been visiting this ‘second home’ for the last 15 years or so. This was the first time we’d been surrounded by unseasonal forest fires and tales of local springs running dry. It felt like the Climate emergency that Mother Nature is in, was coming closer and closer to home.
As a visual artist, I explore, through my work, ideas that are important to me. Often I feel helpless about what’s happening on the planet. This show seemed a way of galvanizing that feeling into something positive, to highlight issues in a way that may resonate with others to take action. Our weaknesses can often be our strengths, hence ‘The Neck’.
For me, the neck, often seen as a sensual part of the body, a site of vulnerability, is also a site of strength, supporting the heavy head, a conduit to our heart and lungs, providing life; giving oxygen to our bodies, and nourishment through the ingestion of food. At a time when our planet and humanity seems to be suffocating on many fronts, strangled by powerful, self-serving ‘leaders’, I decided to invite selected artists to explore the neck as a vehicle for political, social and environmental activation.
I’ve also made a piece for the show (A Breastplate For Greta – As The Seas Rise, The Tide Turns). I didn’t list my name on the list of artists as I wasn’t sure, with my other existing commitments, whether I’d be able to complete it in time. But I have. So, in this show, ‘The Neck’ I am both curator, gallery director and artist.
10% of all artist profits from the exhibition will be pledged to Pacific Calling Partnership, advocates for the peoples of the low lying islands of the South Pacific affected by rising sea waters.
But today is also special for another reason. A friend recently pointed out to me that today is the day that my dear friend, fairy godmother, and surrogate aunt, Margaret, passed away. Margaret (the daughter of Sir John Clancy) is the reason I now make jewellery and the reason I run a gallery. She died the week before my first born child, Tegan.
Margaret left myself and my sister two shoe boxes filled with three generations of jewellery. The first day that I left the house with my newborn, I was robbed. Amongst other things, they took those two boxes. I’d previously never shown much interest in jewellery but now I searched and searched, at auction houses, pawn shops, second-hand shops in the vain hope that maybe I would find some of what had been lost to me.
The insurance company said that they would pay out up to $2k for replacements as long as I showed receipts of purchases (I hadn’t had time to get these precious items insured). At the time I only knew of ‘high street’ jewellery shops like Goldmark. All the jewellery looked the same. It was boring and the memories that the jewellery had embodied were irreplaceable. I couldn’t ‘buy’ replacements. I wrote a letter to the insurance company stating this. They agreed to write me a cheque for $2,000. This I used to attend classes at the Workshop Arts Centre to learn to make my own jewellery. Maybe I could make something that would at least represent the emotional loss I had incurred. Jewellery with meaning. It was there I was introduced to the world of contemporary jewellery. I was hooked. Here was jewellery that was interesting, challenging, filled with ideas and stories.
I ended up going back to study full time as a mature age student at The Enmore Design Centre, and on completion was awarded a scholarship, which gave me a year’s access to the workshop, and the opportunity to also study the Trade Certificate in Jewellery. From there, I opened a gallery and have been curating and providing a space for other jewellery makers to exhibit their work ever since.
If I hadn’t been burgled and suffered that loss, so soon after losing Margaret, my life would be different and I would probably be still at Macquarie Bank making money for the corporation but here I am about to open a show which has so much meaning for me.