Dreaming Their Way: Aboriginal Women Painters from Australia

For about a year now I’ve been hearing stories (mostly from Margo Smith at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection) that a major show of painting by Aboriginal women artists was being planned for the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC. This week I saw the first public announcement:

Dreaming Their Way: Aboriginal Women Painters from Australia
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC
June 30, 2006 – September 24, 2006

The exhibition will feature 80 works by 34 artists who have made important contributions to contemporary painting. The artworks draw on ancient stories—or Dreamings—and symbols, as well as each artist’s deep connection to the land. It is this link to ancient tradition that makes Aboriginal contemporary art so unique. Dreaming Their Way is the first major presentation of contemporary art by Aboriginal women in the United States.

To my knowledge, this is only the fourth major exhibition of Aboriginal art in the United States, following on Dreamings: Art of Aboriginal Australia at the Asia Society in New York City in 1988; Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art, which opened at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 1999; and The Native Born: Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Ramingining, Australia, also at the Asia Society, in 2002. It was a long drought after Dreamings, but perhaps the fact that we’re having the third show in eight years is a good sign of sustained interest. 

The show represents an anniversary of sorts as well, since it will be opening fifteen years after the ground-breaking Aboriginal Women’s Exhibition, curated by Hetti Perkins at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1991. The announcement of the new show sent me off to my bookshelves to retrieve the catalog from the 1991 exhibition, and a very interesting show that was. I want to spend a few days looking it over and thinking about what has changed in 15 years of women’s art, but I will return to the subject in a few days. 

If the Musee du Quai Branly opens next summer, there may be plenty of reason to travel the northern hemisphere for Aboriginal art! I wish I had some news to report on the opening of the new building in Paris, but all I’ve heard recently (from Will Stubbs) is that the rendering of Gulumbu Yunupingu’s work has been approved and should be in place by February. 

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