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Masterworks by Australia's Best Known Women Painters on View in Washington
Dorothy Napangardi Robinson, born c. 1956. My Country / Traveling Women, 2004. Acrylic on canvas, 98 x 66 in. Warlpiri. Collection of Ann Shumelda Okerson and James J. O’Donnell© the artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency 2009.
WASHINGTON, DC.- National Museum of Women in the Arts presents 26 masterworks by some of Australia’s best-known painters, including Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Dorothy Napangardi Robinson, Abie Loy Kemarre, Mitjili Napurrla, and Eubena Nampitjin in Lands of Enchantment: Australian Aboriginal Painting, on view October 9, 2009, through January 10, 2010.

These works of art, which have never been exhibited publicly, are drawn from the collection of Ann Shumelda Okerson and James J. O’Donnell of New Haven, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. They are avid world travelers as well as passionate educators, and are devoted to sharing their collection with the public and ensuring the legacy of Aboriginal artists.

In recent years, Australian Aboriginal art has captured the attention of the global art market. Collectors and museums worldwide relish the striking color and intricate patterning of Aboriginal paintings created by artists in the nation’s central desert region in particular. The works’ nuanced expressions of Aboriginal history and culture reinforce their significance as rich cultural artifacts.

“Ms. Okerson and Dr. O’Donnell are among the many collectors worldwide who are passionate about Australian Aboriginal art. NMWA is delighted to present this exhibition that not only builds on our 2006 exhibition Dreaming their Way: Australian Aboriginal Artists but also brings to light an outstanding private collection centered here in Washington, D.C.,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling.

In 2006, NMWA blazed a trail for female Australian Aboriginal painters by presenting the ground-breaking exhibition, Dreaming Their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women Painters. Lands of Enchantment builds on Dreaming Their Way by including works by male artists in order to demonstrate the broader context of contemporary Aboriginal painting.

Lands of Enchantment explores how contemporary Australian Aboriginal paintings are expressive representations of Dreamings—ancient Aboriginal stories about creation and ancestral spirits who inhabited an undatable past called Dreamtime. Contrary to the prevalent Western view that draws clear distinctions between nature and civilization, Aboriginal culture holds that all living beings and elements of geography have been inextricably related through time.

Aboriginal artists have long been noted for their work in traditional media such as bark painting and wood carving. Although these art forms are still practiced, many contemporary artists working in central Australia—including those featured in Lands of Enchantment—choose to work with the modern medium of acrylic paint on fabric. They extend the ancient tradition of drawing ritual designs on the body or into the earth by rendering intensely colored, semi-abstract symbols of plants, animals, and features of the landscape on their canvases. Through these alluring images, the artists seek to share a part of Aboriginal culture. The paintings are also powerful political acts— statements of the Aboriginal people’s rights to the land and assertions of their enduring cultural presence in Australia.

National Museum of Women in the Arts | Emily Kame Kngwarreye | Dorothy Napangardi Robinson | Lands of Enchantment |




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