The only words Frances Greenwood could find to describe how she felt about the decades of clergy sex abuse in regional Victoria were potent ones – “soul murder”.
The Wheatsheaf artist said she had undergone years of what she described as “abjection” – the feeling of being cast off.
Now, she has channelled those feelings into art she describes as transformative, restorative and based in the healing offered by nature.
“I reported a priest to Pell in 1990 and he threw me out. He (the priest) went on to abuse his office until he was an old man,” she said.
“I was extremely affected by what I saw in the press about the Catholic Church and Cardinal Pell and the ongoing deception on a massive scale and a complete lack of sympathy whatsoever for people who endured sexual assault by priests.
“I ended up deciding it was a state of abjection that I was experiencing. I think it’s that phrase – soul murder – and It’s taken me a long time to find some literature of what happens to people when they are betrayed by so-called spiritual people.”
Using objects from her home in the Wombat State Forest like feathers and scorched metal, Greenwood has created two and three-dimensional works that evoke healing landscapes and metaphorically aim to provide pure and protective vessels for clergy abuse survivors.
She also said she worked in the fourth dimension, time, where she said her work became meditative and based in a new type of symbolism.
“My work is a proposal of a new set of symbols. As Westerners, we have a long history of Christian art so we have to bounce into our own form of symbolism. I hope that the old symbols will crumble.”
One of these new symbols is her answer to Ireland’s leprechaun – own “little people” who are half human and half kangaroo. Greenwood also said feathers were used in her work to powerful effect.
“When I was absolutely enraged after Pell’s testimony, I kept on finding dead birds. Instead of letting them be devoured by foxes at night, I very reverently snipped their beautiful wings and that takes you into a spiritual unfolding. If you’ve got snipped wings, it’s a metaphor for being murdered,” she said.
“I didn’t want to be taken over by anger because we’re powerless...so I mitigated my anger by making objects, which for me is restorative.”
Benedicto is currently exhibiting in Unicorn Lane until February 15.