WHO WAS MAGGIE DIAZ?

MAGGIE DIAZ – BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

Fox Galleries

79 Langridge  St, Collingwood

19th February- 8th March 2017

Ph: 03 8560 3583

info@foxgalleries.com.au

Gwendolen de Lacy Photo Magda de la Pesca
Gwendolen de Lacy Photo Magda de la Pesca

Suppose you knew nothing about photographer, Maggie Diaz, and you wandered into the Fox Gallery in Collingwood. You’d find an exhibition of mainly limited edition archival pigment prints and a selection of mounted original silver gelatin prints. 

You may note that some were shot in the 1950’s in America and others were shot in and around Melbourne mainly in the 1960’s and ’70’s. Glimpses of worlds in 2 continents, but insights into numerous worlds of her subjects.

Especially the contrasts between the lives of the wealthy and those who lived on the streets.

Maggie Diaz was an American photographer. She arrived in Australia by ship in 1961 on a one-way ticket (a divorce gift from her ex-husband). She soon gained a reputation as an important emigre artist and never returned to her homeland. She died in St Kilda in October 2016 after a protracted battle with dementia.

Who was Maggie Diaz? Johan  Scheffer, Victorian ex-parliamentarian, has known her for 40 years. He said that many people felt they had a special relationship with her. “She made you feel special – and you were. I think that translates into her photos as well – the capturing of a moment in time that tells a story.”

This exhibition is partly a commemoration of Diaz, but it’s also a celebration of the intertwining of two other worlds. That of Maggie and that of her dedicated curator and special soulmate, Gwendolen de Lacy.

There’s no one alive more knowledgeable about Maggie Diaz than Gwen. She has painstakingly helped collate and label over 30,000 negatives which are now archived with the State Library of Victoria.

Gwendolen was a 16 year – old performer when her boyfriend first introduced her to Maggie in the mid-1980’s. She needed photos for her portfolio. Being something of a naive “hills girl” from the Dandenongs, she found the cosmopolitan, well-lived  Diaz overpowering, demanding, yet somehow exciting.

Gwendolen de Lacy
Gwendolen de Lacy

Maggie insisted on a 12-hour shoot, which produced among other things the hauntingly beautiful  ethereal “girl behind the veil”. It was, however, a series of photos considered by de Lacy’s agent as too arty and moody for an actor’s portfolio. Nevertheless, photographer and subject developed a firm friendship that would span over 30 years.

Maggie was Gwendolen’s mentor showing her the ropes for life as an actor/artist. Gwendolen is the devotee who brought the often broke photographer to her home for a meal and a bit of family life. She is the nurturer and carer, who not only assisted Diaz in promoting her work, but also tended to her in the final years, when in the grip of dementia, Maggie floated between two worlds.

Even though Diaz has left the mortal coil, Gwendolen still feels the soul connection. Maggie’s spirit now sits on her shoulder and whispers in her ear.

I‘m sure Diaz must be tremendously proud of her protégée. But even now, Gwendolen tells me, the photographer can still be a bit demanding.

If youd like to know more about Maggie Diaz, pop along to the State Library of Victoria from 4pm to 5.30pm this Friday, 25 February 2017. Therell be a special birthday  memorial service at in the Experimedia Space.

Madeleine Say, who has been involved with the Diaz Collection since its launch in 2005, and overseen the handover of the archive as Manager of the Picture Collections Department, will be host for the event.  Therell be an eulogy from Johan Scheffer and a slide show I Dont Do Sweet with Maggies timeless commentary”.

MARY DEL’ARTE AND THE WILD MAN OF McCLELLAND

Mary Delahunty McClelland Feb 2016
Mary Delahunty McClelland Feb 2016

What is the connection between the Honourable Mary Delahunty and a huge naked man? It’s all sculptural, my dear Watson.

" Wild Man" by Ron Mueck 2005
” Wild Man” by Ron Mueck 2005

Sculpture, sculpture, sculpture. Australian sculpture, the once poor cousin of the arts, is the proud focus of the McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery in Langwarrin.

Remember the Creedance Clearwater Revival lyrics? Big wheel keep on turnin, Proud Mary keep on burnin? Now, in a coup for the Home of Australian Sculpture, Proud Mary ’s just roled into the Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Which Mary Delahunty you may ask? There are at least 3 of them connected to politics.

The one I’m talking about is the award -winning current affairs journalist I watched on the ABC’s “7.30 Report “in the 90’s and then later as a State politician in the Bracks government. Minister variously for Education, Arts , Women’s Affairs and Planning.  Honours Degree in Political Science. 2001 Centenary medal for services to government and journalism.

Still has fingers in so many pies, that she’ll soon have to start using her toes!

Mary’s had a lot of involvement in the Arts over the years – TV, programs, government portfolio, Director of Melbourne Recital Centre and Orchestra Victoria – just to mention a few.

I asked Mary how it all began. “Well, I had a mother who loved reading, and as a teenager I attended Loreto, a Ballarat boarding school. It was in Ballarat that I was exposed to an exciting array of musical entertainment, theatre and arts – a smorgasbord of delights!”

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch holds a special place in her heart.  Around 10 years ago, when post-parliament Mary was at something of a low point in her life, Dame Elisabeth asked her if she would become involved in her Sculpture Foundation. This    offer was something of a lifeline to Mary. She jumped at the opportunity. “I had huge respect for her”, Mary tells me. The aim of the Foundation was to elevate the role of sculpture in Victoria by fundraising to commission talented sculptors. They instituted the Biennales which provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase their creations in a beautiful Australian bushland setting. The winners’ works were bought to be displayed in the McClelland Gallery. The years with the Foundation were obviously a stepping stone to her involvement with the Board of Trustees.

Thanks largely to the interest and generosity of Dame Elisabeth and her setting up of the Sculpture Foundation, over 100 outdoor sculptures abound in 16 hectares of native bushland on the Mornington Peninsula. McClelland welcomes over 200,000 visitors annually, making the unique Sculpture park one of the most visited cultural institutions in Australia.

Mary Delahunty is very excited about the future of the Gallery and Sculpture Park which she claims has elevated the role of Australian sculpture, particularly Victorian. There’s the ilk of Inge King, Clem Meadmore, as well as more contemporary  sculptors represented there . It provides great incentives and opportunities for other aspiring sculptors. A deal with the providers of the new Peninsula Link has seen several McClelland sculptures adorning the freeway to Portsea.

Now in her mid-60’s , Mary’s hoping she’s gained a bit of wisdom and know-how and she’s keen to mentor up and coming artists and writers.

Ask anyone who’s been to McClelland and they’ll tell you it’s a really fabulous experience – and there’s a good cafe as well. An artist friend tells me he always takes overseas visitors there as first port of call.

There’s also an Indoor Sculpture Collection in the McClelland Gallery which holds an important and comprehensive collection of Australian sculpture dating from the mid 1800’s through to present day.

After the first meeting of the Board of Trustees early in February this year, Mary is delighted to report they are plotting something new in the way of an exhibition. It’ll revolve around their “signature piece”, Ron Mueck’s 3 metre – high, nude”Wild Man” which, to date, has been quite a focal point of the exhibits.

So what have Mary Delahunty and ‘Wild Man “got in common? Well, he’s seated on a stool and she’s got the Chair. Apart from that, they’re both larger than life in their own distinctive ways.

Ron Mueck
Wild man 2005
Polyester resin, silicone, horse hair, polyester monofilament
285.0 x 162.0 x 108.0cm
Collection: McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery
Purchased Elisabeth Murdoch Sculpture Fund and The Balnaves Foundation, 2008
©The artist
Photograph: Mark Ashkanasy


McClelland Sculpture Park & Gallery

390 McClelland Drive

Langwarrin, VIC 3910

P: +61 3 9789 1671        F: +61 3 9789 1610

Gallery Opening Hours:

Tues to Sun : 10am – 5pm

Closed on Mondays and some Public Holidays.

Entry by donation

McClelland Gallery Cafe:

Tues to Sun : 10am – 4:30pm   

Book for a meal or function on +61 3 9789 1671

TURBANS OFF TO THANDO

Thando Singing Lyrebird - Pics Magda de la Pesca
Thando Singing Lyrebird - Pics Magda de la Pesca

Thando in full flight

Hats off to Marketing Man and Producer, Ibrahim Mustafa . He has a fabulous line – up organised for 2017’s Chapel Summer Sessions. Check the website and don’t miss out on Kyle Lionheart on 4 Feb http://www.chapeloffchapel.com.au/ 

The season has One Nighters only – teasers that leave you wanting repeats to refer your friends to.

This weekend I sampled Thando Sikwila on Saturday night ( Jan 14) and Reece Mastin  Sunday ( Jan 15), both stunningly powerful young singers from “The Voice” and “X-Factor” stables. Both in their early twenties and  developing all sorts of new and exciting dimensions. Each maturing and diversifying.

Thando is a large presence, physically and voice – wise in the tradition of the big black soul mama.

Thando Act 2 - Pics Magda de la Pesca
Thando Act 2 – Pics Magda de la Pesca

Her essence is sweetness and exuberance but her face can exude not only these qualities but sadness, petulance, sassiness as each song dictates. And as audience you’re right in there with her as she belts out R&B, jazz, funk and her own very evocative songs.

Her musical journey reprised her roles as as Effie White (Dreamgirls) and Shug Avery (The Color Purple ) in homage to her biggest influences. She also shared some of her original music from her EP Digital Love Letters.

Thando had her first full house.  She was ecstatic. She really got into it. First , the impossible high heels discarded ,then the troublesome turban tossed to the floor. Daring to reveal a shaved head beneath. She was ready to give the audience her all and it just got better  and better..

In the first Act she had 3 backing singers, 2 guitarists, a piano player and drummer.

By the second Act,  she had discarded her black outfit , shaved head and entourage and was back with another persona and another band. Tight curled Billy Holliday wig and sassy red figure hugging blouse and black skirt with red reveal underneath. In no time  she and her new band had a brought the House down with her song “Love Me”. After that , there was a sweet  debut duet with her sister.

This girl’s into variety plus! 

Then Thando transformed again. This time she was  wearing headgear with plumage reminiscent of a coloured lyre bird tail. Literally totally over the top!  Next she welcomed the cast from the  stage show The Color Purple to sing numbers from the show with her. Sheer joy and exuberance overtook the lot of them. Thando began shimmying and shaking that ample booty seductively  as she saucily sang the refrain “Push the Butt”. The audience went wild.

There were several standing ovations  and an audience reluctant for the show to end, demanded an encore. This time she surprised us all by going to the piano and singing solo. Again with an accomplished air of a woman way beyond her years. 

 Is there no end to Thando’s  talents? Her friend and flatmate, Jae ,told me Thando was very generous in encouraging new talent in others and is obviously at ease in performing with a variety of other musicians . The backing musicians  hold her in awe and are proud and thrilled at her progress over the past couple of years. 

This young woman is going places. As she sang in one of her own songs, I am Changing, “No one’s going to stop me now! ” I believe her and look forward to hanging onto the comet tail!

Review, video interview, photos by Magda de la Pesca  

I love Chapel off Chapel theatre with it’s great stained glass window, atmospheric lighting, acoustics, generously staggered seating. It’s one of my fave live music venues. 


More Thando videos from previous shows

 

XXX FACTOR REECE MASTIN

This  20 year old is aptly described as “a self-assured artist with all the poise , charisma and swagger of a burgeoning  rock star with a hell of a voice.” He’s graduating from the one X factor to a XXX.

Sometimes he growls and screams like a young Jimmy Barnes. Other times, the sandpaper throat turns to honey as he sings like a mellifluous angel. But always powerful.

Teemed up with  accomplished guitarists and singers, Taylor Sheridan and Mitchell Rogers, Reece had some really hot guitarists to bounce off. Mind you, he’s not too bad on the guitar either. They were really in there jamming and the teenage girls were screaming their socks off and gyrating all over the theatre.

Matter of fact, as a grandmother, I was up there dancing in the aisles too! 

Reece ,Taylor and Mitchell Pics by Ibrahim Mustafa
Reece ,Taylor and Mitchell Pics by Ibrahim Mustafa

Talking of grandmothers, Reece showed a softer, family – loving side when he talked of singing an Irish ballad with his grandparents. The way he sang that beautiful ballad with his angel voice, it was enough to bring a tear to the eye of many a grandmother.

He also shared his caring side in a song he wrote for his sister and is an ambassador for White Ribbon. 

Reece put his own style to covers such as California Dreaming, Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone and did a fabulous version of the Bee Gees Staying Alive which really showed the creativity of the man and his group. The trio rocked! and rocked some more!  It was a joy to watch the musos  delighting in each others singing and playing.The ovations were not only standing, they were stomping , screaming , arm waving, singing along with their heroes.  Taylor , who did the warm up,  seemed to be almost as popular as Reece. 

Reece is penning quite a few his own songs these days. He spoke of how loneliness on the road , away from his loved one, inspired him to write “Suitcase of Stories”.  The thought being that this is what he would bring back home to her.

I’d say this young singer would already have quite a few stories in that suitcase, but if he keeps developing the way he’s going, he’s going to need a much bigger suitcase in the future.

Reece and band photos by Ibrahim Mustafa

Thanks Opera Boys. It’s been a grate buZZ.

‘DAVID HOCKNEY  – ARTIST OR OLD SMARTIST?

"The Jugglers ( Photo: Shaughn & John )
David Hockney in his studio in Los Angeles, April 2016 ( Photo: Shaughn & John)
David Hockney in his studio in Los Angeles, April 2016 ( Photo: Shaughn & John)

Who said an old dog cant learn new tricks? David Hockney, at 80ish, knocks that one on the head in his exhibition DAVID HOCKNEY CURRENT at the National Gallery of Victoria (11 Nov 2016 – 13 March 2017). Over  2000 pieces created in the last 10 years.

 Where many of his vintage are terrified of technology and cling to thoughts of the good old ways, this painter and sketcher continues to experiment with iPhones, iPads , digital illuminated screens, and multiple camera perspectives. His subjects being Nature, still-life, portraits may be traditional ones with Matisse, Van Gogh & Monet, Turner influences, but his use of technology opens up new avenues of exploration. For example, the multi-layered screen depictions are illuminating illustrations of how the artist builds up a work. As a non-painter, I found it fascinating.

Geez, youre pretentious, says my sister, Dee, whos reading over my shoulder. She came to the gallery with me…and naive.

Why? I ask.

Cant you see?  Hockneys old flames are getting pretty burnt out now, and hes come up with a strategy to attract young techno-men to come up and see my iPad some time!

Thats outrageous! I yell at her, Hockneys one of the great artists of our times. Brilliant and prolific. A true Creative whos been in the vanguard of painting on digital screens. His melding of photography , drawing and painting totally breaks down the old photography versus art argument. I think its fabulous to see it all coming together. particularly the way he uses layers of video to show the process of making a picture.

But Dee just scoffs: What a lot of wank! A real artist should stick to his brushes, pencils and tried- and – true canvas. Hes just a show-off! And whats this Jugglers video jazz – using 18 cameras. Hes got too much money for his own good. Who wants to see a bunch of people disjointedly moving around 18 screen squares? Gave me a bloody headache trying to follow what was going on!

Cant you see, I cry, exasperated, Its a really exciting experimental work.  Hockneys exploring multiple vanishing points whereas in traditional art perspective was usually seen as heading towards one point.

You can crap on all you like. It scrambles my brain to see half a dog in one square and then the whole same dog in another square and all those split juggler images. 

Poor Dee. She just doesnt get it.

I try to appease her. And what about that big room with 82 portraits in it? All done with paint and canvas? That mustve pleased you. 

Humph! she snorts . That David Hockney should be reported to the Society For Prevention of Cruelty to Artists‘ Models!

Why? 

He tortured each one of them by making them sit still for 3 days on that uncomfortable old yellow chair! Its just sadistic. Didnt you see how ill at ease a lot of them looked? 

I rise to Hockneys defence. Im sure they were all honoured to be asked by such an eminent artist. 

Did you see the one he did of his cleaning lady? She was positively squirming. You just had to look at her face and body language!

Youve totally missed the point, my dear deluded sister. All those portraits together form a wonderful overview of many different people in his life. He wanted to paint them as they were,using their body language to give clues as to their moods and personalities.

Dee snorts again in her inimitable way, it was just one big visual NAME – DROP! ( She affects an over -the -top posh accent) Look at all my important friends, Rockers the banker, Joe Blow the architect of the Guggenheim, Jack Spratt Numero Uno art dealer What a poseur! 

"Trees Near Warter" ( photo: Magda de la Pesca )
“Trees Near Warter” ( photo: Magda de la Pesca )

Dee, dear oh dear Dee

Whats more , she cuts in, have you noticed how most of them were men? How few women there were? 

Thats not surprising, I said, after all, he is gay and loves having a posse of men around him. Anyway,  what Im reviewing here is fabulous art, not sexual preferences.  Cant you relate to the those evocative Nature scenes set in East Yorkshire and Yosemite National Park   the exquisite ways he captures the moods of the different seasons? 

Theyre ok, I suppose, she concedes. But what about that room with huge identical murals of trees on all four walls? How boring is that? You turn around in a circle and see the same thing all the time. One wall would have been quite enough.

My dear Dee, cant you see that Hockney is trying to make us feel were in the middle of the forest to share his love of trees with us, open our eyes to their beauty shapes and colours ?

Once youve seen one tree, youve seen the lot. Its just overkill. Anyway, theyre all foreign. Theyre not Australian. Give me a good red gum any day. 

Sometimes I want to throttle my sister, but only the dread of being locked up in a claustrophobic space stops me. 

Cant you appreciate the brilliant way he plays with light and reflections?

I reckon youd like to play with his reflection.When we saw him talking in that video, all you could say was, What beautiful eyes he has, what a sensuous mouth. I bet you wish hed have a normal moment with you.

Sometimes I think Dee stands for dee-lerious! One moment her minds so narrow it could replace the lead in a pencil, the next moment, its winging free on flights of fantasy.

Anyway, there is one thing I like about him.

Perhaps there is a glimmer of artistic appreciation in her after all.

Dee pauses, as she lights up her 5th cigarette in an hour, At least hes a chain smoker like me, and stands up for our rights against all those anti-puff fanatics!

I give up!

Red Boots & Half-Smoked Cigarettes

RED BOOTS AND HALF SMOKED CIGARETTES

Owl and Cat Theatre –  Dec  12 – 23, 2016
 
My great aunt Gertrude loves a bit of theatre, so I took her along to see this production. With difficulty, we found the entrance to the Owl and Cat up a dilapidated alleyway opposite Richmond station. An old house converted into bar and theatre. Upon entering, all audience members  are issued with plastic black eye masks. “Ooh”, says Gertie, this is very Venice” and insists I take a photo of her by the dinky little theatre bar.
{CAPTION}For Act one, the Masked Ones are led into a room resembling a dungeon and invited to interact with a group of young actors all in white with strait-jacket tops,  except for two who are in black. Some are frozen in poses and others on the move with beatific smiles on their faces. The loud music is reminiscent of an interweave between brass band and sacred music.With a few distortions thrown in.
 I try to talk to a frozen picture of misery, but she isn’t going to unfreeze for me. When questioned, one of the Movers, replies that they are all just one happy family. Gertie whispers to me, “They’re all zombies. This reminds me of waiting for the crime to happen in Midsummer Murders.” There’s red glow in one corner of the stage. To me, we are obviously watching a whole lot deluded lunatics awaiting their fate in Purgatory.
 Next,  the audience is encouraged to be seated on long red benches in the middle of the stage space, encircled by actors doing weird , inexplicable things.A  young actor in black , with a malevolent roll of the eye, insists 83 year- old Gertie gives up her seat to him. This must be Beelzebub – or certainly a very rude member of the younger generation. Gertie was not impressed. But his belligerent glare was not to be trifled with. Suddenly, the audience is released outside into the alleyway and daylight. The two black outfitted run away , hotly pursued by the white robed, but manage to escape out of the gate. 
 
“Ah,” sighs Aunt Gertrude, ” You’ll have to explain it to me when we get home.” In the alley way , the play continues with the the white robed ones freed from purgatory, and discussing their former experiences with sexual predation and embezzlement. The masked audience, loiters, wondering and watching on. Luckily , Gertie & I snaffle a small bench to sit on. Then we’re ushered back to the original theatre space which now has become theatre in the round. Back in their civvies, the cast are seated in a clump on the floor , confessing their”kinky” sexual adventures.{CAPTION}
 
The 20 -somethings’ avant garderie. The audience ceases to exist. It’s just like when you’re sitting on a tram, overhearing someone’s conversation on a mobile phone. “Now I understand the masks, ” says Gertie” It’s to mask the audience’s boredom! “She was a bit of a goer in her day and there’s not much she hadn’t heard as a publican’s wife. Finally, we escape into the wild streets of Richmond and collapse thankfully into the nearest pub . I explain the play to Gertie.  
 
Fortunately, I’d read up on it before the show and had a word with the Dad of the Creator & Director, Gabrielle Savrone. A few years earlier, she’d been in the grip of some cult and worried her parents sick with imaginings of what might be going on.This play was her brave “reveal” to Mum and Dad about life in the cult and existence post-cult. “One can only sympathise with the parents!” pronounces Gertie.  She’s quite grumpy . “That title was quite misleading. There were no red boots anywhere and that cigarette they passed to each other in the last act was well and truly smoked to the end.” 

Review and photos by Magda de la Pesca

 

NICA’S HIGH OCTANE CIRCUS GRADUATES

landscape_copy 

landscape-project

NICA: The Landscape Project

An amorphous cloud of high – revving molecules, continually on the move, fusing ,unfusing climbing, jumping, bumping, entangling ,disentangling                            

They hone ‘em well at National Institute of Circus Arts Australia (NICA). The performers don’t wear the spangly , glittery costumes of yore, but they sparkle with the effervescence of youth.

 The latest crop of bright young things to emerge from three years of intensive circus arts training exhilarated the audience last night with their graduating NICA performance The Landscape Project . Perky, cheeky air of young children having boundless fun. Don’t be deceived, they’re risking life and limb to entertain us. They’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and ice-packs into perfecting their bodies and minds to do what most of wouldn’t have a hope in hell of doing.

The Landscape Project is a three Acter brilliantly directed by Debra Batton.

nica-graduates-2016

The First Part with its subdued lighting and khaki shorts and tops reminded me of a boy scout campfire. Yet it was primal and earthbound with bodies strewn all over the floor, slowly coming to life here and there as individuals emerged to do their thing. Simple props like rows of champagne bottles to balance on, chocks of wood to clack together –  a clumsier version of indigenous music sticks.A night landscape punctuated here and there by a few strums of a guitar nearby, a flute somewhere else.

The Second and Third Parts ramped up in colour and action as each of the 14 graduates from all over Australia and New Zealand strutted their stuff . They rose to greater heights as the set provide several different physical levels to operate  upon – and under.As an ensemble, the performers explored every nook and cranny of the stage landscape.

I particularly liked the inventive ways the audiences’ eyes were directed all over the landscape of the large stage to focus on particular acts. For example,  once it was a ball rolled across stage from one group to another.  Another time,  two performers stared intently through giant binoculars to make our heads turn to see what they were looking at.

The wow factor was rampant. The students’ hard work paid off as they trapezed, juggled, hooped, balanced, trampolined, acrobaticked, entwined their bodies with single ropes suspended from the ceiling – all the usual circus skills but choreographed in fresh new ways.

Even though they worked as an ensemble, the different personalities shone through as they each showcased their expertise and uniqueness.Their quirky, fun touches totally captivated the audience .

For example, the routine of the  juggler who always whispered in a loud stage whisper to the audience and his two accomplices was a real attention grabber and very cute.

The petulant girl who always wanted to perform with the wooden chair only to be upstaged by others was a contrasting thread throughout.

The flexuality of the androgynous contortionist, who must have had some high tech hip transplants to be able to swivel those ball & socket joints 360 degrees, defied any notion of body limitations.

The subtle campy body language and facial expressions of the 3 young men exiting from their balancing act, was somehow both suggestive and innocent. It certainly raised a warm chuckle in the audience.

All fourteen of these super graduates were brilliant, energetic, flying high in their circus arts. One can only wish each one  a bright future. May they wow many more audiences.

Thank the Powers that Be, that funding was not withdrawn from NICA. The excellence of the Institute’s training and choice of students is world class and worth every bit of hoolah  – moolah spent on it.