What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question that children are asked often but is seldom asked of adults.
Turning the tables on convention, Ballarat’s community art collective SHEILAs – Strong, Honest, Exceptional and Inspirational Lady Artists – have opened a new exhibition in which their artworks explore the notion of “when I grow up”.
The collective comprises women of all ages from teens to retirement, who work in every medium of art from paint to print, pen to photography, sculpture to textiles and often more than one – and the notion of growing up is different to every one of them.
SHEILAs member Lynne Makings said the theme was, ironically, suggested the group’s oldest member who is almost 80.
“It certainly is an interesting theme. Do we ever grow up? It’s a bit of a revelation and with artists from a mixed bag of ages, the whole concept of growing up can be approached from so many different angles,” she said.
The group’s 37 female artists have examined the ideals of freedom and equality that come with growing up, alongside their own dreams and aspirations.
Most of the works in When I Grow Up have been created over the past months in response to the theme – which Ms Makings conceded was tough for some artists.
“Many of us have cursed the title in the sense of trying to get a handle on it, and particularly having to search back in yourself and wee what’s in you and what your intuition says.”
Some works are anchored in reality, some in the abstract and others still are metaphors, such as an intricate photograph of a banksia flower that belies the artist’s dream of living in a dense native forest.
“Many of the works are a metaphor for what each individual woman identifies with without having constraints,” Ms Makings said.
One artists has a note to herself saying she hasn’t received the message to grow up, another one’s art says “let me grow up”, and a colourful self portrait has the simple message “I want to have colour”.
“It allows a space for woman to want to be. It’s room to navigate where your headspace goes to and to give a sense of what identity is.”
When I Grow Up is the second major exhibition for the SHEILAs, with 16 of the original 24 who exhibited at the Fairbanks Eye Gallery returning for the 2018 exhibition.
What Ms Makings is particularly pleased about is the 21 new female artists who are exhibiting for the first time with the SHEILAs. New artists are always welcome.
The exhibition is open at Backspace Gallery until August 12.