Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Take an Art Break: Aboriginal Art

About four years ago, I went to see an exhibit of Australian Aboriginal Women Painters “Dreaming Their Way.” While enthralled with the art, what impressed me the most was how they created it and what it meant to the artist.

Art is a central part of Aboriginal life and is intimately connected to land, law and religious belief. Connection to a person's homeland is deeply felt. Mick Dodson (former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Commissioner) has expressed this powerfully:

To understand our law, our culture and our relationship to the physical and spiritual world, you must begin with land. Everything about aboriginal society is inextricably woven with, and connected to, land. Culture is the land, the land and spirituality of aboriginal people, our cultural beliefs or reason for existence is the land. You take that away and you take away our reason for existence. We have grown that land up. We are dancing, singing, and painting for the land. We are celebrating the land. Removed from our lands, we are literally removed from ourselves. Aboriginal Art Online

At the exhibit, there was a video of aboriginal people working together to create a picture. They made the most amazing designs using dots and simple lines. It looked as if they had taken a stick and wrapped some sort of fabric around it. I was struck by how happy and content they seemed to be making their art and sharing stories with one another. Watch Aboriginal Artst Judy WatsonNapangardi.

I decided to try this in a workshop. Trial and error lead me to using Q Tips and toothpicks to create the dots, lines and traditional symbols. In fact, I ended up mixing some of the symbols of the AIDS movement with the traditional aboriginal art symbols to create a very unique design. It was not only a very calming experience, but I was able to express some of my feelings about the epidemic. Ultimately very healing.

Today’s art break is to make a picture in the style of Australian Aboriginal Art. Below are links to help you get started. Don’t limit yourself to paints. You can use colored pencils, markers and pens.

How to Make an Aboriginal Style Drawing

Traditional Aboriginal Art Symbols

How to Make Dotted Paintings

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