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Reviews/Visual Art

A rich tapestry of life and death

13 September 2019

Review: Deborah Worthy-Collins, ‘Bone of my Bone, Flesh of my Flesh’ ·
The Lobby ·
Review by Jaimi Wright ·

“Bone of my Bone, Flesh of my Flesh” is, without a doubt, alive.

To look at Deborah Worthy-Collins’ body of work, inspired by her own life, is to have the collection look straight back into you and ask all manner of questions about birth, life, sex, death, decay, healing and the messy matrices and rituals in between. The Perth-based artist’s works incite a personal and yet broadly existential journey, one for which the opening night viewers, myself included, were not entirely prepared.

Bed sheets have been buried, exhumed, infused with live cultures, riddled with sewing, burned, turned into paper and hung on the walls of The Lobby like tapestries.
Bed sheets have been buried, exhumed, infused with live cultures, riddled with sewing, burned, turned into paper and hung on the walls of The Lobby like tapestries.

The journey of “Bone of my Bone, Flesh of my Flesh” is written in the journey of Worthy-Collins’ materials. Each material, carefully selected to reflect the emotional resonance of the human life-cycle, is deconstructed, reconstructed and caught in-between in order to explore a breadth of symbolic meaning. Bed sheets have been buried, exhumed, infused with live cultures, riddled with sewing, burned, turned into paper and hung on the walls of The Lobby like tapestries. Bed sheets, she says, are the site of many of life’s processes: sex, birth, death and often healing. By processing materials such as bed sheets, sand and muslin in a way that reflects life’s processes, Worthy-Collins unlocks the artistic potential of these processes.

Worthy-Collins must also be applauded for her resonant choice of exhibition venue. Not just a professional exhibition space, The Lobby doubles as a domestic abode, home of local curator and gallery manager Leah Robbie. The exhibition weaves about The Lobby, between bedroom and living area. Muslin, a material that has been used both to swaddle babies upon their birth and corpses upon their death, trails from the top to the bottom of the stairs of the house. To stage this exhibition within the traditional setting of a white cube would not do the complex themes Worthy-Collins explores justice; the use of a home gallery like The Lobby enhances the show’s emotional impact.

Using a deep red resin against reconstituted bed sheets, Worthy-Collins creates works that resemble leathery skin between decay and healing, that are crusted over like a scab but also glisten like jewels.
Deep red resin against reconstituted bed sheets, resembles leathery skin between decay and healing..

This exhibition is a timely reminder that the processes of life are not completely sanitary or entirely unpalatable, but like Worthy-Collins’ works, have varied physical and emotional textures. Using a deep red resin against reconstituted bed sheets, Worthy-Collins creates works that resemble leathery skin between decay and healing, that are crusted over like a scab but also glisten like jewels.

“Bone of my Bone, Flesh of my Flesh” is deeply and introspectively human and a handcrafted individual experience for each viewer. Deborah Worthy-Collins is electric in her latest exhibition. If there is one truth to be gleaned from this show, there is no one way to experience this exhibition, as there is no one way to be human.

“Bone of my Bone, Flesh of my Flesh” ran at The Lobby, September 1-13, with viewings by appointment.

Top photo by Danielle Fusco.

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Author —
Jaimi Wright

Jaimi Wright is your friendly neighbourhood art historian. She has just completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) at UWA and dabbles in curating, local arts writing, and 19th century French history. Her favourite piece of play equipment is the roundabout even though her stomach should know better.

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