DAMAGED, exhibited at the AGNSW is based solely on persons disabled by thalidomide as we have been represented in medical photography. It is a reflection on the attitudes that have shaped our bodies, childhoods, psyche and ultimately lives.
Things my Mother Never Told Me, consisting of a series of oil paintings, explores the everyday life of persons with severe physical deformities, whether it be working at a laptop, performing on stage or just standing by the river. These paintings were based on friends, acquaintances and other thalidomiders.
The work was met with a lot of interest and acclaim by the Australian press and public. There were a significant number of reviews which also included a short feature in the ABC evening news and a 30 minute live interview on radio.
Professor of Medical Ethics from the UNSW, Ann Daniel wrote an essay to accompany the AGNSW show while the distinguished art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, John McDonald wrote that:
One thinks of Jusepe de Ribera's famous portrait of Magdalena Ventura, the bearded woman, on permanent display in the Prado - an image that retains a greater force than all the photographs of such conditions subsequently taken by medical science.
I scaled all of the paintings to life size - I wanted the facts to be known, I did not want it to be swept under the carpet yet again, locked away somewhere and forgotten about. I also wanted to better acquaint the Australian public with life as it is for us thalidomiders - to normalize our image, to stimulate other ways of understanding, to feel life from our perspective, to humanize the image of deformity, to arouse empathy, to soften the hardness that so many of us have been met with. And the greatest of all - to discover beauty, here, where most people least expect it.
I was very moved to hear many people comment on the beauty they experienced while being in the exhibitions.
With a poignant beauty that belies a tragic history... wrote Jillian Grant for Art Almanac.
This work is a commemoration of the longevity of our voices which have only ever been consistently silenced throughout history.
Warm thanks to the Thalidomide Trust UK and beneficiaries, The Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, Melchior de Wolff, Kon Gouriotis, B. Steinberg.