[S]cottsdale, Arizona, famous for its brutal summers, anthropomorphic Saguaro cacti, and Taliesin West, the sprawling desert home of architect Frank Llyod Wright.
Less well known perhaps, for its art scene.
Traditionally eclipsed by its more established Western neighbours of LA and Las Vegas, Arizona in fact has a lot to offer the art world, with Paolo Soleri’s experimental Arcosanti project and the Robert Rauschenberg supported Cattle Track easily rivalling any similar initiatives.
Nowhere is Arizona’s art merit more apparent, however, than at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, currently home to an important, pioneering exhibition of the work of female Aboriginal artists.
An (unsurprisingly) underrepresented group, “Marking the Infinite”, features 9 artists born between the 1920s and 70s in Aboriginal Australia. All the women are revered matriarchs in their communities, and among the most celebrated artists in Australia (all have works in the Australian National Museum’s collection).
Their art addresses personal issues and universal contemporary themes, and reflects ancient cultural traditions — Australian Aboriginal art dates back more than 40,000 years and is the oldest ongoing tradition of art in the world.
This exhibition illustrates the seismic shift that occurred in the contemporary Aboriginal art movement in the mid-1990s. Art has always been an important part of Aboriginal life, connecting past and present, the people and the land, and the supernatural and reality. Contemporary Aboriginal artists tend to be organised in collectives, and until the 1980s, the collectives and the art market were dominated by men. Aboriginal societies have faced challenges, including drug and alcohol abuse, as well as a high mortality rate among men. By the end of the 1980s, more than half of the art production from Aboriginal communities was by women.
The exhibition also tells a story about a deep sisterhood that developed among these artists. Their art helps to hold their communities together and became a key component for the women to be able to maintain their social and economic independence.
“Given the Museum’s engagement with a plurality of contemporary artistic voices, we are excited for our audience to discover the unique and powerful work of these Aboriginal women,” said Sara Cochran, Ph.D., SMoCA’s director and chief curator. “It is a wonderful opportunity to see a new frontier of contemporary art and understand how another culture contemplates and processes the essential questions of human existence and its place in the world. Their work is a testament to the creativity of older individuals.”
Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia, until Jan. 21, 2018 www.SMoCA.org