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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Dreaming Their Way


Pansy Napangati (born about 1948)

Community: Papunya, Northern Territory
Language: Luritja-Warlpiri
In contrast to many other Aboriginal women artists, Pansy Napangati began painting on her own in the early 1970s rather than assisting male relatives. She was born in Haasts Bluff but has lived in Papunya since 1960.

Linda Syddick (Tjungkaya Napaltjarri) (born 1941)

Community: Papunya, Northern Territory
Language: Pintupi-Luritja
Copyright of Japingka Gallery
Although deeply rooted in ancient tradition, Australian Aboriginal art is very open to new cultural influences, which is particularly apparent in the work of Linda Syddick (Tjungkaya Napaltjarri). In her very personal and contemporary works, Dreamings are understood as an ongoing process of revelation of new experiences of all types.

Dorothy Napangardi Robinson (born about 1956)

Community: Yuendumu; residence Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Language: Warlpiri
While the artist's early work reflects the typical style of art from Yuendumu, since 1998 Napangardi has developed a range of individualistic marks that she applies in very intricate patterns using subtle variations of black, white, and earth colors. The resulting canvases shimmer with the illusion of movement. Although Napangardi maps the paths of her ancestors with the same aerial view employed by other Aboriginal artists, her style of representation is very experimental in its sweeping and delicate patterning.

Bessie Nakamarra Sims (born about 1932)

Community: Yuendumu, Northern Territory
Language: Warlpiri
Bessie Nakamarra Sims is a senior painter whose work is fairly typical of Yuendumu in its style and iconography. She led a long, traditional life in the bush before coming into contact with white people. Sims has been painting since the mid-1980s and is also active in her community's efforts to control alcohol and drug abuse.

Alice Nampitjinpa (born about 1943)

Community: Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff), Northern Territory
Language: Pintupi
Alice Nampitjinpa's early paintings resemble those from Papunya; however, she soon developed her own style of bold, simplified abstractions. Nampitjinpa represents the sand hills around her birthplace, Talaalpi, a swamp west of Ikuntji. Shades of red and yellow represent the natural ochres used in body painting.

Mitjili Napurrula (born about 1945)

Community: Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff), Northern Territory
Language: Pintupi
Coming from a family of well-respected artists, including her brother Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula (c. 1942-2001), Mitjili Napurrula is one of the most innovative desert painters. She confidently uses vivid colors in stark contrast to represent her father's land as well as his Dreaming, Ualki (also spelled Uwalki).

Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi (born 1967)

Community: Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Language: Anmatyerre
"I was born in 1967 in Alice Springs and attended the Aboriginal Schools there where I studied traditional Aboriginal culture, Art and the basic requirements. I have painted Aboriginal paintings with my father, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, since I was fourteen years old. I sold paintings in Alice Springs for many years and I have now relocated to Warrandyte, Victoria, with my husband and two small children."

Lorna Napurrula Fencer (born about 1925)

Community: Lajamanu, Northern Territory
Language: Warlpiri
Lorna Napurrula Fencer spent many years painting ceremonial body designs and did not begin to produce works on canvas until she was in her sixties.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1916­1996)

Community: Utopia, Northern Territory
Language: Anmatyerre
"Whole lot, that's whole lot . . . That's what I paint, whole lot."
A senior member of the Anmatyerre language group, Kngwarreye began to paint on canvas in her late seventies, after decades of ritual artistic activity. Her work received immediate attention from critics, collectors, and fellow artists alike and she was represented posthumously in the 1997 Venice Biennale. Unlike most desert painters at the time, she did not use stylized representations of animal tracks or concentric circles in her designs, but employed richly layered brushstrokes or dabs throughout her abstract compositions. Her free handling of paint using various implements, a keen sense of color, and dynamic compositions earned her international fame. Kngwarreye was prodigiously creative, and it is estimated that she executed around three thousand works in an eight-year period.

Gloria Tamerre Petyarre (born about 1948)

Community: Utopia, Northern Territory
Language: Anmatyerre
"I paint awelye [women's designs and ceremonies] . . . People have to use their imaginations."
Among Emily Kame Kngwarreye's nieces are seven skin group sisters, women who may or may not be genetically related but are designated as sisters in a complex kinship system, all of whom are artists. Two of them, Gloria and Kathleen Petyarre, use a multitude of dots to create a sense of movement in their paintings. Gloria Tamerre Petyarre's country, Anungara, serves as her inspiration as she turns traditional motifs, such as leaves, into abstract patterns.

Kathleen Petyarre (born about 1930)

Community: Utopia, Northern Territory
Language: Eastern Anmatyerre
Kathleen Petyarre evokes the subtlety and drama of the desert with all-over patterns of intricate marks that relate to her Dreamings and the land. Her paintings have been described as "magisterial works that can be likened to symphonic compositions." In a display of technical brilliance and painstaking execution, Petyarre applies many layers of paint, which combine to subtly suggest depth.

Abie Loy Kemarre (born 1972)

Community: Utopia, Northern Territory
Language: Eastern Anmatyerre
Abie Loy Kemarre, granddaughter of Kathleen Petyarre, belongs to a younger generation of Utopia artists. Loy has already demonstrated a sure command of her gestural vocabulary and an eagerness to experiment with form and color.

Ningura Napurrula (born about 1938)

Community: Walungurru (Kintore), Northern Territory
Language: Pintupi
Using line as her predominant compositional device, Ningura Napurrula layers paint heavily on her canvases. The stark black-and-white palette the artist sometimes employs is more commonly associated with men's painting; however, Napurrula depicts the travels of her female ancestors and the mythological significance of the food they collected.

Inyuwa Nampitjinpa (about 1935-1999)

Community: Walungurru (Kintore), Northern Territory
Language: Pintupi
Inyuwa Nampitjinpa greatly abstracts and simplifies the basic symbolic elements of desert painting. In her loose and energetic compositions, circles, lines, and the typical U shapes become apparent only upon close scrutiny.

Tatali Nangala (about 1925-2000)

Community: Walungurru (Kintore), Northern Territory
Language: Pintupi
In the 1960s Tatali Nangala moved from the area around Kintore to Papunya, returning a few years later. She participated in a large women's painting project in the early 1990s and became a full-time artist the last five years of her life.

Makinti Napanangka (born 1930)

Community: Walungurru (Kintore), Northern Territory
Language: Pintupi
Makinti Napanangka is a cousin of Tatali Nangala. Her work may appear as abstract interplays of yellow, orange, and white circles and lines; however, Napanangka's paintings are still based on the Kungka Kutjarra (Two Women) Dreaming. The wandering lines in Napanangka's compositions relate to the hairstring skirts that women wear during Pintupi ceremonies; the songs and dances performed at these rites are suggested in the repetitive clusters of lines. In typical Walungurru style, the paintings are freely executed and are often enlivened by a stray line or a patch of a different color.

Lucy Yukenbarri Napanangka (1934-2003)

Community: Balgo Hills (Wirrimanu), Western Australia
Language: Kukatja
Lucy Yukenbarri Napanangka used bold hues and heavily applied paint in simple compositions that represent topographical elements, including sand dunes and water holes. The work's dense pigmentation is created by the convergence of individual dots of paint. This technique, of Napanangka's own invention, is now known as kinti-kinti (close-close). Napanangka was an important member of her community, for she held the rights to several Dreamings associated with local sources of food and water.

Eubena Nampitjin (born about 1925)

Community: Balgo Hills (Wirrimanu), Western Australia
Language: Kukatja
Currently the best-known artist of Balgo Hills is Eubena Nampitjin, who paints the land of her birth, far to the south of the community. Nampitjin is an esteemed law woman and was taught traditional healing skills by her mother. She was raised in the lifestyle of a nomadic hunter, and she still spends large amounts of time in the bush. Her opulent paintings display intense hues of red, orange, or pink—a signature style she arrived at in 1989.

Queenie McKenzie (about 1930-1998)

Community: Warmun (Turkey Creek), Western Australia
Language: Gija
Copyright of Japingka Gallery
"I like a do country. What you know country. And where you go to Sunday road, somewhere walkabout, you look hill like that. You take notice. 'Ah! I can draw this,' you say. You go back la camp. You camp might be that day. That morning you get up, just get your paint and run that hill where he sit down. I got to run 'em that Bow River hill yet. I'm going for that I tell you."
Queenie McKenzie was the first well-known woman painter of east Kimberley. Her subjects range from important geographical sites and Christian themes to witnessed or historical events. In typical Warmun style, her subjects are presented against a background of geographical features that are arranged in rows or multiples. Because she had a white father, McKenzie narrowly escaped being taken away from her mother by force. She worked on the old and new stations of Texas Downs as a cook for nearly forty years until she moved to the Warmun community in the mid-1970s. Once there, her friend Rover Thomas (c. 1926­1998), one of the best-known Australian Aboriginal artists, encouraged her to take up art. Eventually McKenzie herself became an inspiration to younger artists.

Lena Nyadbi (born about 1937)

Community: Warmun (Turkey Creek), Western Australia
Language: Gija
While Lena Nyadbi employs some elements typical of Warmun style, the subtle shifts of color and form and the repetition of abstract linear elements are unique. Nyadbi did not start painting until 1998, at age sixty-one.

Lily Karedada (born about 1935)

Community: Kalumburu, Western Australia
Language: Tjarintjin-Wunumbal
Part of a large family of artists, Lily Karedada depicts Wandjina on canvas as well as on bark and in prints. The Wandjina, powerful ancestors of the Woonambal tribe, are spirits of the sky and are associated with rain, thunderstorms, and the coming of the wet season. Wandjina are often depicted in a veil of dots, signifying rain, with prominent eyes and no mouth. It is said the Wandjina communicate through thought, and that if they had mouths, it would never stop raining. The animals that surround the Wandjina also hold significance in the artist's totem.

Kay Lindjuwanga (born 1957)

Community: Maningrida, Northern Territory
Language: Kunwinjku
Kay Lindjuwanga was taught to paint by her husband, acclaimed artist John Mawurndjul (born c. 1952), whom she has assisted since the 1980s. Employing a technique typical of Arnhem Land painters, Lindjuwanga uses a long-haired brush to apply layers of precise parallel strokes in a crosshatched pattern. Her images are abstracted representations of significant sites in her Dreaming. Lindjuwanga also produces etchings, hollow logs, and carvings of mimih—mythical, mischievous creatures.

Dorothy Djukulul (born 1942)

Community: Ramingining, Northern Territory
Language: Ganalbingu
Dorothy Djukulul was born into a family of prominent artists and is one of a small number of women who were taught to paint by their fathers in the 1960s.

Daisy Manybunharrawuy (born about 1950)

Community: Ramingining, Northern Territory
Language: Liyagalawumirr
"I was born and lived at Ngarrawundhu at Milingimbi . . . I still kept going at bark painting after I married Djembangu. My father used to tell me a story from the painting. My families were happy with that—all those old people . . . I use white clay from the beach; black from the tree from the bush; red and yellow from the beach." Daisy Manybunharrawuy, who was also among those taught early on by their fathers, depicts the story of the Wagilag Sisters in finely detailed and complex visual narratives.

Galuma Maymuru (born 1951)

Community: Yirrkala, Northern Territory
Language: Manggalili
Galuma Maymuru was strongly encouraged as an artist by her father, Narritjin (c. 1914-1981), and belongs to the first generation of Yolngu women who became major artists. Anthropologist Howard Morphy eloquently describes the significance of art to Maymuru: "To Galuma, art is an act of memory and a process of transmission, in which she passes Manggalili law on to a new generation of her clan. Equally, it is a spiritual and aesthetic exploration of her homeland."

Wolpa Wanambi (born 1970)

Community: Yirrkala, Northern Territory
Language: Marrakulu
With great control and painterly deliberation, Wolpa Wanambi relates the narrative of the Marrakulu clan. The story recounts the beginning of the epic journey of the two Wagilag (or Wawilak) Sisters through many different clan countries.

Kitty Kantilla (about 1928-2003)

Community: Milikapiti, Melville Island, Northern Territory
Language: Tiwi
"It's from the old times." (Kitty Kantilla speaking of her work)
One of the most acclaimed artists of her generation, Kitty Kantilla possessed strong compositional skills and an assuredness of design. Her traditional images deftly balance shape and color, patterned and solid areas, in a refined and almost decorative way. In 1997, Kantilla boldly reversed the Tiwi tradition of painting on black ground, and began painting on white instead. The resulting images are unusually delicate and airy.

Jean Baptist Apuatimi (born 1940)

Community: Nguiu, Bathurst Island, Northern Territory
Language: Tiwi
Aside from her paintings, Jean Baptist Apuatimi is also renowned for her carved ironwood sculptures.

Gertie Huddleston (born about 1933)

Community: Ngukurr, Northern Territory
Language: Mara
"Oh goodness [flowers] make me happy inside. Long time, when the missionaries were there [at Roper River] we used to do fancywork you know, tablecloth and needlework; big flowers, Waratah flowers all the bush flowers. I was champion for needlework and it looked like that [one of her paintings]." In a striking contrast to most Aboriginal art, Gertie Huddleston employs a horizontal, or planar, point of view when layering her exuberantly colored landscapes. These works are representational, not symbolic, yet they are equally complex compositions. Huddleston spent her early life hunting and gathering with her family and was later educated at Roper River Mission, where she tended to animals, flowers, and other plants. She also learned the art of needlework, which is still reflected in the nature of her mark making.

Regina Wilson (born 1945)

Community: Peppimenarti, Northern Territory
Language: Marathiel
Regina Wilson is the best known artist of the group of Peppimenarti women whose work is inspired by traditional weaving patterns. She often bases her work on memories of her grandparents' creations, including fishing nets.

Rosella Namok (born 1979)

Community: Lockhart River, Queensland
Language: Aangkum
"I paint about country and people around me . . . about traditional culture . . . about things that happen, things we do . . . the weather . . . our isolated community. My recent paintings have been about how people live in our community and about country."
Rosella Namok is the most acclaimed artist of the Lockhart River Art Gang. Instead of using brushes or sticks, Namok paints with her fingers—usually on canvas, sometimes paper—a practice that is inspired by traditional sand drawing. She has developed a range of symbolic shapes, including rectangles and ovals, that not only evoke traditional Aboriginal culture, but also address contemporary life in her community. Although Namok has been influenced by the modern and contemporary art she has seen at art galleries, she claims that "it's listening to the old (Lockhart River) girls yarn that gives me the inspiration."

Judy Watson (born 1959)

Community: Brisbane, Queensland
Language: Waanyi
"I get inspirations from my grandmother; I'm very close to her and very connected with her story through the matrilineal side of my family that's the Aboriginal side. And also country, just country everywhere, but particularly up in North West Queensland which is our area. I get really inspired and enriched by looking at collections in museums and art galleries around the place and by looking at other Aboriginal artists' work too; they're doing so much deadly stuff out there."
Art-school trained painter/printmaker Judy Watson was one of the three Aboriginal women artists included in the 1997 Venice Biennale. Her work traces her ancestral roots back to her great-grandmother and addresses issues related to women, politics, and the environment. Watson creates visual parables of her Aboriginal heritage, showing how history is embedded in the land, wounding and scarring it.

Julie Dowling (born 1969)

Community: Perth, Western Australia
Language: Badimaya-Yamatji-Noongar
Art-school trained artist Julie Dowling is taking Aboriginal art in the completely new direction of Western portraiture. Drawing on her family and community history, she creates portraits from life or imagines the likenesses of her subjects. Of special renown are her self-portraits, in which she reclaims her maternal ancestors.