Oct 04, 2010

Aboriginals of Australia: Museum Shows Contemporary Natives’ Art

Over three months a globally important collection of art and culture will be showcased in Australia which hopes to bring a younger audience into contact with aboriginal culture.

Below is an article published by the Daily Evergreen


WSU's Museum of Art showed “Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art: From the Collection of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan,” Thursday [30 September 2010] . The new, free exhibit is open to the public from Oct. 1 through Dec. 11.

“It’s a fabulous collection ... It literally is globally important," said Debby Stinson, the marketing manager for the WSU Museum of Art. "It’s not the kind of show you’re going to see just anywhere.” Stinson said she had never seen Aboriginal art up close before.

“All of (the art) has a similar link in that they’re maps ... of the mind, and they tend to also be maps of the place where the people have traveled or where they’ve traveled in the dreaming state of the mind,” she said. “It’s a really beautiful tradition.” Senior mechanical engineering major David Atkinson said he shared Stinson’s enthusiasm for the new exhibit.

“It’s really interesting, because it’s a different culture," he said. "It’s completely different than what I would know anything about.” Pauline Sameshima, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, designed the exhibit’s companion website (wsumuseumclass.com) and emphasized the possible impact the exhibit had on younger visiting students.

“There’s all kinds of connections to the art,” she said. “For kids, coming and seeing the dot paintings and the bright colors, it’s just ... when they think about painting as lines and dots, they’re going to go, ‘Yeah, I can do it.’” Both Sameshima and Stinson said they were excited about attendance at the opening reception and following lecture, which was conducted by collection owners Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan.

“We’re very excited at the number of people who’ve shown up,” said Stinson. “We have almost 800 kids already scheduled to come through the museum and view the art, and that makes me really, really happy.” Levi and Kaplan’s lecture on their collection covered everything from the social dynamic of the art within contemporary Aboriginal societies to the use of art within the culture.

“This has been a continuous art form amongst the Aboriginals of Australia for the last 40,000 years,” said Kaplan.

The talk focused on the temporary and ceremonial nature of the artwork, which included works in sand, scarification, body painting and rock painting, according to Levi and Kaplan.

“(The art) was intended to be used while they were there, but nothing could be carried with them,” said Kaplan.

Levi said the art was for ceremonial purposes as a rule, and it was then forgotten or wiped clean.

Kaplan said the artwork had utilitarian purposes for the Aboriginal peoples to convey both stories and geographical information about certain regions.

“Most of Aboriginal paintings are maps,” said Kaplan. “It’s like painting a kangaroo, but that kangaroo is from a specific area. So (the kangaroo) is really talking about a specific area. These lines (in the painting) show paths between waterholes where people would have to know to be able to get to the next waterhole.”