Isiiad is ten years old. To celebrate its decade in the universe, I’ve given it a facelift. In the process, all the blogs have been moved across to this new site. While working on it, I revisited all the isiiad posts from 2010 to 2012. It was a real trip down memory lane. From the Archibald at Tarrawarra Museum of Art, to bronze sculptures in the subways of New York City, every blog reminded me of the great fun to be had exploring the world of the arts.
I haven’t posted anything new to isiiad since October 2012. Just after that, I took up the position of Arts Manager at the beautiful, quirky Montsalvat. The role was like isiiad only in three dimensions. Amidst those stone and rustic buildings, I had the very great pleasure of working with visual artists, performers and writers, some of whom I knew from isiiad and others I previously thought I could only dream of meeting. (The incomparable Michael Leunig comes immediately to mind.) There were exhibitions to bring to life, concerts for music lovers and book launches to delight the most discerning reader. It was a glorious wild ride with never a dull moment, taking up every creative cell in my body, leaving me no energy to engage with you dear readers.
My work at the lovely Montsalvat came to an end well over a year ago. That has freed up some space to get cracking on isiiad once again. The old website had developed some major glitches and security issues in the intervening time, so after a great deal of soul searching, I decided to move it all over to this new site. Now that task is complete, I’m ready to bring you some new images and thoughts.
The question of the focus of isiiad into the future has exercised a great deal of my thinking. It will have a different focus now. In the eight years since that last blog I’ve experienced many professional and personal highs and lows. Life is like that. I’ve learnt a great many things about myself and the Arts. The Arts continue to provide me with a deep level of nourishment which I still want to honour here on isiiad. I will forever marvel at Beethoven’s extraordinary compositions, so many of which were written while he was deaf. The sublime violin performances of Hilary Hahn, known for her devotion to practice, practice and more practice bring me to tears. The transformative spine-tingling experience of being both outside and inside a Frank Gehry building was the most memorable highlight of a stay in Paris. Elizabeth Strout’s faultless writing never ceases to amaze me. The arts is one of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning, so that will still be at the core of what I do here on isiiad.
Within that focus I would like to take the deep dive into the issue of equality for women in the arts. While the place of women has improved somewhat over the last few decades, it’s still true to say that women are at something of a disadvantage in most sectors of the arts. Women visual artists are less likely to be collected by major galleries than men. There are still more male composers being commissioned to create new works than women. The bulk of published writers are still men. Thank goodness for awards like the Stella Prize which are helping to redress that balance. But there is still work to be done. So, going forward, I would like to feature women artists and issues of women in the arts, in the hope that isiiad will encourage women to exercise their creative muscle and showcase their work.
The last ten months have been marked by the devastating invisible coronavirus. The arts sector was the first to be affected with concert halls, theatres and galleries closing down and projects and exhibitions being either put on hold or lost altogether. As the situation worsened Melbourne experienced one of the most significant lockdowns in the world, lasting for an agonisingly long four months. It has paid off as we have now been free of locally acquired cases and deaths for well over a month. We have been rewarded with safely opening up our economy and are becoming accustomed to a new ‘covid normal’. Galleries and theatres are beginning to open once again. During our extreme lockdown, the scatter of objects in my home and the artworks on the walls were the only ‘flesh and blood’ artworks I experienced for months. They gave me great solace and reminded me of the person who created them and the circumstances surrounding their acquisition. Blogging in the Time of Rona will reflect the close observation of those objects during the lockdown
One of the prominent shifts I observed during the lockdown was an interest, or to be more honest, obsession with the news. ABC News 24 kept me abreast of the coronavirus’s frightening progress. I became obsessed with the daily graphs of coronavirus numbers both here and around the world. At the same time, I found myself becoming more and more interested in politics. The questions of which of the world’s politicians managed the virus well and what were the values that informed that successful management where upper most in my mind. The divide that appeared between either following the science or prioritising the economy was never more starkly drawn than in the USA.
Some news platforms mentioned the arts and interviewed artists devastated by the complete loss of income and lack of access to social security. Politicians rarely mentioned it. Yet everyone in my sphere agreed that film, music and literature were a godsend on those isolated days and nights. So the Arts played an essential role in keeping us sane. Given its importance, I wonder why the arts and politics are such uncomfortable bedfellows, both here and in other parts of the world. What can be done to bring the two together harmoniously, productively? Perhaps isiiad can help turn up the volume on that issue, especially at the local level.
How emphasis on feminism (or womanism) and politics will look on isiiad in the future is anyone’s guess. I simply intend to allow them to be here and see what happens.
So welcome back to those of you who remember isiiad in its first incarnation and welcome to new readers who have found it for the very first time. I hope it inspires and encourages you to either be creative yourself or simply marvel at the creativity of others. If it happens to spark a tiny little flame of arts activism, that would make this blogger very happy indeed.
I’m probably the only person in Melbourne, who would willingly move from the sea (St Kilda) to the trees (Warrandyte). Yes that’s right. Earlier this year I packed up my family’s home of twenty years and directed the removalists up to Warrandyte. I’ve become used to the bewildered response when I tell people about my tree change…but I’m just as happy as a little piggy in poo.
I searched for two years to find just the right home and eventually opted for position, position, position. I have a little plot of land in a secluded area of Warrandyte where the Yarra River runs at the bottom of the garden. (That’s me by my “water feature” on the right.) The area running down to the river is inhabited by a big old grey kangaroo and birds. Oh the birds!! The day I moved in, the very moment I opened my new back door, three kookaburras celebrated my arrival from the big spotted gum beside my deck. Thirty sulphur crested cockatoos perform an intensely noisy display every evening at dusk….I view it from my deck… it’s better than the tellie.
I’ve named the place “isiiad”. An acronym for I Saw It In A Dream, because I did see it in a dream, long before I bought it. In the dream I saw a place amoung the gum trees in Warrandyte where I could follow my creative spirit and make my very own sanctuary.
My daughter has named the street leading up to isiiad “Warrandyte’s answer to the Great Ocean Road”- as the view of the river is spectacular!
I tell people I bought the place, not the house. The house is ordinary. I tell people that you can always rearrange a house but you can’t put the Yarra at the bottom of the garden. So the work of turning an ordinary house into a sanctuary is in full swing!! There’s furniture to buy, an ensuite to renovate, windows to alter, quotes to be chased, and a garden to fill with natives and love. I’ve spent the last few months shopping, planning, choosing and being inspired by my new surroundings.
Note on my new surroundings. In addition to it’s natural beauty, Warrandyte is home to painters, sculptors and potters. Heide is close by to remind us of people like Mirka Mora, Joy Hester and of course the visionary Sunday Reed. Montsalvat (ten minutes away) continues to charm the crowds and to host musicians and artists in its quirky buildings. Those of you already familiar with the Yarra Valley, will understand the inspirations to be had there. As if wine, food and sweeping views is not enough, perched up on the hill of a vineyard in the Yarra Valley is TarraWarra Museum of Art. It is one of those places every Melbournian should see before they die…but get in early, since one visit will have you recording regular visits into your diary forever more. All around this big ticket item are the studios of local artists, where works of exceptional quality can be found.
I hope to share my finds, my inspirations, my new hood- in short whatever floats my boat, with you, dear readers, via this blog. You can watch the progress of isiiad’s refurbishment. Check out the shops and artisans whose wares have found a resting place at isiiad. View the work of creative people. See the world of arts and design, both here and in other places and sneak a peek into the homes of other renovation tragics like myself.