Small stitches and splashes of bright colour make bold statements for seniors in the current Reclaimed Vintage exhibition.
‘Later years mean larger lives’ is the key message from local seniors who joined the Tuggeranong Arts Centre’s Reclaimed Vintage project. Their artworks in textiles, ceramics, paint and collage are on display at the Arts Centre until August 31.
The works investigate what it means to get older, celebrate lives well lived and challenges overcome, and to be less concerned by other people’s impressions.
“Reclaimed Vintage is about being proud of your age, or actually ignoring the number and doing positive things, creating and being in the moment,” says Carol Cooke, who led a series of textiles workshops in preparation for the exhibition.
She introduced textiles as art to residents at Marigal Gardens in Kambah. “A few embroidery stitches can be such an expression of emotions,” she says.
Participant Jo Hannan created a linen shirt with splashes of neon colour and emblazoned with the words, ‘Be Heard, Be Seen.’ In her artist statement, Hannan says, ‘Live life, be seen, be heard. Colour your World!’
“Each work is from the heart, and it shows,” says Cooke. “I wanted to teach some old dogs new tricks and encourage them to try something new.”
Sculptor Tony Steel worked in ceramics with the group he facilitated. The pieces made during the project “express their different careers in life, their travel, hobbies, pets and loved ones,” he says.
Friendship was a key outcome of the project for those who attended the ceramics workshops.
Canberra painter Blaide Lallemand conducted collage and painting workshops at Uniting Amala in Gordon with a high-needs group of participants in their later years who attended with carers. Some had memory loss, while others used wheelchairs.
“They didn’t always remember what they did from one class to the next, but they loved it,” she says. Uniting Amala has asked her to keep doing her art classes and she is very pleased to continue.
The collage attendees were mostly born in the thirties and Lallemand found the variety of histories within the group amazing.
“Australia was so very different then,” she says. “They talked of riding horses to school, or the country school just closing down during the war when the teacher left to fight. It was so rich and wonderful hearing those stories,” she adds.
In this group, people concentrated their art on memories from their childhood and youth.
Marilyn Miller’s drawings of her horse Priscilla recall younger days spent riding many miles to school. Fascinatingly, the process of illustrating her childhood memories actually taught her to look at art differently.
“She told me it opened up her eyes to really seeing art for the first time and understanding the decisions and the process that leads to the final work,” explains Lallemand.
In the same group, Dane Mikulandra made colourful renderings of the boat he used to escape Yugoslavia, rowing under the cover of dark to reach Italy.
“He rowed for two days and two nights with six other people,” says Lallemand. “I don’t have grandparents, and I don’t spend a lot of time with this generation, but I’ve realised there is much more to people than meets the eye.”
The Reclaimed Vintage project sets out to challenge perceptions of older people. Textile artist Carol Cooke agrees wholeheartedly, adding “ageing is not a disease… We are not invisible, we can hear you and we have opinions that are worth listening to.”
An added outcome for this project has been ongoing friendship and art participation for those who took part.
“Loneliness is a problem in our society and to be able to create a small community group was something I had hoped to achieve. The group is continuing to meet and I have many ideas to continue their growth,” says Cooke.
“Community art is important.”