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Minnie Pwerle


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Bush Melon Dreaming
7 March to 1 April 2006

Additional works

Minnie Pwerle (c.1915-2006)
Country: Utopia NT
Language: Anmatyerre/Alyawarre

Minnie Pwerle was born at Utopia pastoral station north east of Alice Springs circa 1915 and died Saturday 18 March 2006. She was one of Australia's leading Aboriginal artists and certainly one of the longest lived. She was thought to be in her early to mid nineties and a late developer, beginning her painting career during the early 1990's after witnessing many of her contemporaries, including that of her cousin the late Emily Kngwarreye, do so well in the art market. Although she was late to participate in the commercial art market, she had, of course, been applying ceremonial body paint designs all her long traditional life.

Minnie had seven children including, Eileen, Betty, June, Dora, Raymond and Barbara Weir. Barbara is an internationally acclaimed artist and both Betty and Dora are fine painters. Barbaraís father was station owner Jack Weir, to whom Minnie became pregnant during her teens.  Minnie later married an Aboriginal man, Motorcar Jim, the father of her remaining children.

Minnieís paintings, Awelye, Bush Melon & Bush Melon Seed characteristically feature bold brush strokes in vivid colour.  Initially ochred body painting for women's ceremonial activity, these Dreaming stories centre on the sweet food that comes from the small bush which is found in traditional Antwengerrp country on the Utopia Aboriginal community homelands.  Once abundant, the Bush Melon is now very hard to find, but the women collect this fruit and scrape out the small black seeds. Green and ripening to brown, itís eaten straight away or cut into pieces, skewered on a piece of wood and dried for the coming months when traditional bush tucker is scarce.

In the December 2003 edition of Australian Art Collector, Minnie was nominated as one of the 50 most collectable artists and her gestural brushwork has been compared with Tony Tuckson and Ian Fairweather. Minnie was a finalist at the 2004 Telstra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in Darwin.  A keen eye can appreciate the subtle changes inherent in Minnieís work throughout her short, but meteoric career. Considering her ability to delight and her prominence in the global art world, Minnie Pwerle had few solo exhibitions.  Her first was in 2000 in Melbourne and again in September 2002 in Sydney.

In this high quality, solo exhibition, Bett Gallery Hobart presents selected paintings especially commissioned from the artist during 2004 and 2005.

Sadly, Minnie Pwerle passed away at home in Utopia on Saturday 18 March, 2006. She was in her early to mid- nineties, the art world, I think, thought she would live forever!

Dick Bett
20 March 2006

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