John F. Kennedy once said, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” For six Indigenous Australian artists, that place will be the University of Virginia, where, over the next three years in four-week residencies, they will create and share their art with students and the community.
U.Va.’s Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, in partnership with the Australia Council for the Arts, announced Monday the six Australian artists it will host over the next three years: David Bosun, Nici Cumpston, Bronwyn Bancroft, Marshall Bell, Ricardo Idagi and Bianca Beetson.
The recipients of the residencies were announced at the Sixth National Indigenous Arts Awards at the Sydney Opera House. Australia Council for the Arts supervised the application process and will provide partial funding for each residency.
“We are thrilled to build such an important international bridge and look forward to the benefits, not only for the artists involved, but for Indigenous people and cultures in Australia and globally,” said Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin, who chairs the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board.
Each of the upcoming four-week residencies will include an exhibition at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and the opportunity to participate in U.Va. academic life through a variety of programs and collaborative projects.
The extended length of the Australia Council residencies will allow for more expansive creative projects and prolonged engagement with students in a variety of disciplines.
“The recipients are all highly accomplished artists whose areas of expertise range from sculpture to printmaking, from painting to photography,” said Margo Smith, director of the Kluge-Ruhe collection. “Each artist will contribute significantly to our community of learning and the student experience at the University of Virginia.”
In September, David Bosun of the Mualgal group, from Moa Island in the Torres Strait, will undertake the first Australia Council residency. He will work with students to carve Mualgal ceremonial poles that both depict and contain the spirits of ancestral beings.
An expert printmaker working with linoleum and woodcut processes, Bosun will also participate in a print workshop with U.Va. students and faculty.
Future artists-in-residents at Kluge-Ruhe will include:
- Nici Cumpston (Barkindji group), a photographer and curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Art Gallery of South Australia, who will demonstrate her technique for making hand-colored photographs and create new work focused on the Central Virginia environment;
- Bronwyn Bancroft (Bundjalung group) from New South Wales, who will expand on the painting techniques and conceptual train of thought developed in her “DNA and Linear Linkages” series;
- Marshall Bell (Kamilaroi/Yimin groups) from Brisbane, who will use the iconography of southeast Australia to revive cultural knowledge that has been concealed by colonization, and will develop a new body of paintings and construct site-specific sculptural projects with U.Va. students;
- Ricardo Idagi (Meriam group), a sculptor and ceramic artist from Murray Island in the Torres Strait, who will develop new work focused on identity and cultural difference, a project that examines the struggles shared by African-Americans and Indigenous Australians in the area of civil rights; and
- Bianca Beetson (Kabi Kabi/Gabbi Gabbi and Waradjuri groups), who will explore the colonial history of Virginia to develop a greater understanding of its effects on Virginia’s indigenous people –– research that will inform Beetson’s artistic practice that includes painting, photography, sculpture, textiles and new media.
“The knowledge and skills of this group of artists extends far beyond the studio,” Smith said. “We are looking forward to creating many programs across disciplines to involve as many students as possible in these residencies.”