Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Creating in Dreamtime

Ellen and I hustled into Dartmouth's Hood Museum a couple of Saturdays ago to catch a show of paintings by Australian Aboriginal women, Dreaming Their Way. What a show it was.

Aboriginal religion is translated into English as Dreaming or the Dreamtime. The term refers less to slumbering than the stories and totems as they come to descendents from ancestral beings. It's been described by anthropoligists as "a way of knowing and a way of being," or more simply as "everywhen."

The paintings were on stretched linen and on eucalyptus bark. The one I've posted here is Leaves, by Gloria Tamerre Petyarre. I stood before her paintings for a long time, caught up in the color, rhythm, and flow of them. Many of the painters haven't had a great deal of formal training. Some of them began their work in their 50s and 60s.

I never fail to be amazed at what the creative impulse can achieve. It will find a way. Louis Armstrong didn't have a trumpet of his own till Bix Beiderbecke gave him one, and Mississippi John Hurt was given a guitar of his own for the first time at the Newport Folk Festival. Like them, many of the women in this exhibit produced world class art without a host of bourgeoise advantages.

Follow the link in the header to the Hood Museum to see more remarkable art.

This exhibit is on the move, by the way. Keep an eye out for it. It's one of the most satisfying shows I've ever seen.

Gloria Tamerre Petyarre's work is incredible. As is the work of Bill Harney, a friend of mine and an elder of the Wardaman people in the Northern Territory. Bill explains the dreamtime as the time when the earth was "not still", or when it was fluid, in motion. Then it all "came to still" as in solid, almost rigid. It is definately a way of knowing.

Thank you for posting this one.
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