PART 2: WEEK 3 - 5

My third week in Leonora was busy working with the school. On the Tuesday we had 8 adults and 6 children attending a LED light workshop in the studio, which myself and Dennis had prepared.

On the Wednesday we prepared another 150 sheets of paper for the cyanotype print workshop, which needed to be completed in darkness. On Wednesday evening I went to the women’s group again and I brought some chicken-wire and bendable LED lights and worked with 5 women to produce their own language signs upon request, so that was fun.

Dennis (my artist assistant) and I went to the school Thursday morning to work with the high school class. My proposal was to create ‘selfies’ in cyanotype- but first we needed portraits of the involved. I brought my DSLR and set up a quick/temporary studio and worked with 8 kids. Each portrait needed to be inverted and I also made some pictures posterized to create more of a ‘poster’ feel.

On Friday morning, we welcomed the high school to our studio and informed the set up a system on how to produce their cyanotype images. As it is quite a direct process and easy to over expose (the image goes total dark blue) we had to work swiftly as it was a bright clear day, and the UV rays strong. Both Dennis and Istructed the high school students how to work, by placing transparency, exposure in sun and to develop in a tray of water. One of the kids, Daryl, a young fella, was initially not particularly interested, but once he saw how his own face emerged in the water process he wanted to test out and do a few more. After one+ intenses hour they had made over 75 images and we took a break having some juice, fruit and biscuits. We were discussing the exhibition and how their images would be part of it. Then we worked a little longer before the school had to go back to their classrooms.

We made around 120 images with the school that included portraits and different objects and flowers. We placed the images to dry and we cleaned up the space and called it a day.

That evening myself and Elaine took 2 signs out for a test arrangement / photoshoot in the landscape. We placed the signs in front of Mt Leonora just before 6.30 pm and switched the signs on- it looked wonderful!

On the weekend we took Dennis and Peddilla to the forgotten for (an old mine pit) where Dennis used to go swimming as a child. We then headed over to Malcolm Dam, which was stunning with lots of flowers and water. We had a picnic and went for a walk. I did some sound recordings in the water. Before heading back to Leonora we climbed Malcolm hill in 37 degree heat having a look at the wonderful view. That afternoon I spent visiting Talitha and Roderick and we made some more cyanoprints in their garden. Their two daughters were running around playing with the newly arrived duck, which was little, fluffy and yellow.

Sunday afternoon myself and Elaine headed out to lake Raeside to do some filming. I was searching for a location with a red dirt road for some performative works, which I often engaged in through various locations around the globe. I wanted to do a large-scale print / painting using the landscape and the colours available for imprint. We used Elaine’s car but I also dressed up in one of my ‘characters’ wearing a spell dress and a mask as part of the performance / action. It’s a direct engagement through vehicle and body physically dragging around a huge sheet (7 mtrs) fabric. The residue shapes the print. I set up my camera and asked Elaine to shoot whilst I entered the Salt Lake with the fabric and then dragged it across the landscape, picking up dirt and pebbles, becoming crystallized because of the saltwater on the fabric. 

Elaine was very supportive and thought it was great fun- as it is quite a crazy activity that I often just do by myself.

WEEK 4

Last week - lots to do. Monday morning I was interviewed by Spirit radio that was broadcast on Wednesday, the day before my light event. Then the ABC Goldfields and Esperance team contacted me as they saw one of my test images of a couple of signs out by Mt Leonora on the Leonora grapevine, facebook group page. They wanted to come out to the event and film it as they thought it looked so great. 

I headed to the studio to meet with Dennis. We worked on assembling more of the signs and I left him and Peddilla to be in charge whilst I worked on the invite and marketing with Elaine. We sent out all the invites that afternoon. Monday evening Elaine had arranged a dinner for some of the people in Leonora, which was lovely. Elaine told them about our fabric mud race and I am not sure what they made of it except laughing about it. 

Elaine had also just finished a huge restoration on the mining head frame that very day (Monday) so lots of things happened at once.

Tuesday myself and Elaine went to check on the cottage in Gwalia where we wanted to hang all the cyanotype prints made with the community. The days were getting hotter and we found out that the event day on Thursday was supposed to be 42 degrees with high winds. Damn! Back to the Shire we went to organise chairs for the event and sand bags for all the signs. We also arranged catering of sandwiches and nibbles and we had Talitha to make her famous cakes.

Wednesday took up most of the day of finishing off the signs, pack everything for the event such as tools and lights, cups and plates etc.

We had an early evening as we had to go up at 5.30 am to start installing the cyanotype in the cottages- as by 11 am it would already be 35 degrees meaning 45 inside the cottages.

I installed the lights with the help of Elaine. We then moved onto the fabrics and started to pin up the somewhat 150 pieces of cyanotype. Not so easy as the warm desert winds were picking up.

I wanted to interview Dennis and we had arranged for this to happen this morning too. The ABC called and said they would be coming around 3.30pm. So it was just go-go. Driving out into the landscape myself and Dennis talked for about 25 minutes in hot weather.

Back home we both noticed we were orange because of the high winds, desert sand onto sweaty skin. Shower. Food. Water. Get changed. Meet with ABC- interview at 4pm for 20 min inside the cottage at around 42 degrees outside- probably 47 inside. Very hot. Back to the studio to meet Roderick who also work for the Shire. Picking up all the signs whilst the ABC is filming. Heading out to the Mt Leonora / Dingo Dreaming to install the signs. I asked the ABC to interview Dennis too, as he is from Leonora and he has come back to work with youths and had recently set up basketball activities Mondays and Wednesdays. Arranging signs, sandbags and chairs. Elaine head to pick up esky with water and juice, cakes and catering stuff- we are now heading towards 5.45pm.  There is a meeting in town on community awareness on suicide that finished at 6pm. We decided that this art event would complement this quite well as a positive and fun event and asked the Shire if they could arrange a bus service out to Mt Leonora for easy access- as people wouldn’t walk 1,5 km in 42 degrees heat. So, at 6.20pm a busload came full of people, that is 40 in total. Great.

The bus left and came back with a second load, oh, another 40 people, then individual cars started to drive in. O.K now I was getting nervous, called Elaine and said we filled our estimate twice already! The ABC was gobsmacked, Laura the reporter said that this is amazing. Then Jim Epis the CEO and the Shire president arrived with their families. It was just amazing.

We started at 7pm on the dot. Elaine did an introduction, I spoke briefly and Dennis spoke thanking the Elders for allowing us to use their land (the site is significant and we were allowed to place the signs in front of the Dingo Dreaming).

Then we invited all participants who had made signs up to switch on their signs. And people loved it. There were tears and laughs and everyone wondered around asking what this meant and what that meant- as the languages were not only in English, but in many languages. On Jim Epis’ instruction, we left the signs on all night so people could see them driving past. We then headed to the cottages for food and to see the prints. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and everyone was very impressed and happy. We were told that over 100 people attended.

The signs were picked up Friday morning and donated to the school. I also gave lots of their prints to decorate the school rooms with. A sad walk around saying goodbye to people. In the afternoon myself and Elaine took a trip to lake Horan and Raeside salt lake to do a second filming on my performative salt lake painting, using some of the black fabric. It was a beautiful day and a nice way to end.

That evening at dinner, we were approached by several people, who complemented the light project. They loved it. We both got hugs and it was emotional, feeling that this community really appreciated all that work.

Saturday, we headed to Kalgoorlie as I was flying out to Perth on Sunday morning. We went to have lunch with Geraldine and Luxie who were staying in Kalgoorile. It was very nice to be able to see them. I love these women and see them as family. It was lovely to hang out, but very sad to leave them, we all cried. I brought some bendable LED lights so Luxie could get a sense of what we had done. We then decided to ‘pimp’ her walking frame in yellow LED. So she can turn it on when she fancies a bit of light. They had a painting with a story telling made for me and it will be sent to me in the post. I will see them again. I am certain.

That evening Elaine and I had dinner out, just to catch our breaths. Sunday I was dropped at the airport and we parted ways. Again, we will be in touch as we have become good friends, learning a lot from each other. 

WEEK 5

On Monday morning, I headed to Adelaide to interview Donna Reid who lived in Leonora 1970’s for 11 years, and who was the founder of Gwalia Museum. She is an artist who followed her husband Don Reid to work in the Goldfields as an engineer geologist, straight from her home in Nebraska where they met. She was very involved in rescuing Gwalia, stopping the demolition of cottages and managed to ensure it was seen as a valuable heritage asset, that should be kept. Today Gwalia is probably Leonora’s best tourist attraction, after gold prospecting. A heritage site important to the Goldfields and something Elaine is also working on; restoring Gwalia museum and archives.

I have hours of footage and interviews with Donna from my 2 days with her. The extent of her artistic practice is inspired by Gwalia and mining woodwork patterns. This will become a short film on the history of Gwalia from an artist perspective of heritage and history. My contribution to Donna’s work is a stop motion animation from some of her objects left behind in Gwalia museum. This film / animation will be donated to the Shire and the museum, and could feature as an addition to the other information around the museum history, to not forget why Gwalia is still there (without Donna, Gwalia wouldn’t be there). I am also intending to use my encounter with Donna for the final spaced 3: north by southeast exhibition in 2018, as she is the core inspiration from my encounter with Gwalia. I feel like I have traced her footsteps, only 40 years apart.