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first art programs organized at Utopia in 1977 when 39 years of age. These early batik-making workshops marked the emergence of Aboriginal women artists. Up to this time they had commonly assisted men in the completion of their paintings, but were rarely permitted their own paint and canvas. From the outset their works were informed by the natural shapes and patterns of local leaves, flowers, seeds and grasses which provided the touchstone of form and structure. Gloria’s early batiks were richly colourful and reflected the daily interaction of the desert women with their environment. When art advisor Rodney Gooch introduced the women to acrylic paints and canvas in the early 1980’s a range of new possibilities were opened up that were both distinctively female and without precedent in the Aboriginal art movement. Until this time women had been unacknowledged as artists in part due to a belief that cultural values and iconography dwelt in the domain of men only, but also because women were less forward about discussing ‘women’s business’ such as their rituals, responsibilities, journeying and all important, Awelye or ceremonial body painting. Traditionally, men and women of Aboriginal societies played complementary though differentiated roles. The different yet, equally powerful cultural role of women manifested from this time as a rich abundance of unique imagery and expressiveness that began to ignite interest amongst art collectors around the world. 

Utopia’s longstanding status, both nationally and internationally, as a vibrant art making community has rested greatly on the strength and creativity of its women. During the successful land claim that in 1979 returned ownership to its traditional Anmatyerre and Alyawarre inhabitants, the women presented the greater part of their claim through Awelye; 'they painted the body designs, performed the dances and displayed the ritual objects that belong to their clan areas' (Brody 1989). Re-affirming their Dreaming heritage and consolidating an identity deeply rooted in relationship to their country strengthened the whole community, determining a continuing central role for women in its uniquely autonomous management. This history is reflected in Gloria’s dynamic paintings which capture the energy of the land and communicate an underlying and vibrant spirituality.

 

That she has done so while working primarily as an independent artist, without assistance from a permanent art centre, is a testimony to her special ability to negotiate across a wide range of cultural and artistic relationships.