Category Archives: art

When It Is What It Isn’t…Friday Fictioneers.

“Perspective…It’s all about perspective,” Professor Smart explained. “See that planter box of grass… Now, lie down on the floor and look up at it. See how the grass appears so much larger. Assumes the height of an almighty jungle, although it’s barely knee-height. Your mind plays tricks on you. You always need to double check. Make sure you’re seeing what you’re actually seeing.”

This was too easy. With Professor Smart lying down on the floor absorbed by his theories, my partner crept unseen behind his desk and stole the Picasso from right behind his back. He had perfect tunnel vision.

…….

101 words.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. Each week we write 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Ronda Del Boccio.

I am a passionate photographer, and what I love most about photography is how it illuminates my vision. Helps me to see things with such clarity and intensity, that I see details and objects through the lens which I usually miss. This is a form of tunnel vision in itself, and yet it’s also showed me how different the same object can appear from different angles and how things appear much larger when you photograph them from the ground looking up. I love playing around with perspective in photography, although I’m glad I can do it digitally these days. I’m saving a fortune.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Struggle to Belong…or not!

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

Albert Einstein

For many years, I thought it was just me who was “different”. Didn’t fit in or go with the flow. Of course, I knew I was different, and even had scientific evidence to prove it. Moreover, I’m “creative”  which automatically lands you in a classification all of your own. We’re automatically assumed to be “weirdos”.

At times, I’ve tried to conform, or simply conform enough. However, the older I get and with a burning sense that life is short, I can’t be bothered anymore. You can like me, or lump me. I’m not going to play to your tune.

However, is being myself and not being part of the crowd such a bad thing? Is being authentic actually more important than conforming?

I guess it depends on who you ask.

Today, I was reminded of these tensions when I recommended a favourite book of mine, Shel Silverstein’s: The Missing Piece.  It’s been animated here and it is really cute, as well as making some strong philosophical points… Maybe we need to be a bit rough around the edges. Perhaps, being a seeker interacting with and absorbing a full  smorgasbord of life, is better than being fat dumb and happy on the couch.

“A man on his deathbed or after he has been snubbed by his wife may enjoy a few moments of solitude, the rest of his life is a noisy gregariousness. He fears solitude as a child fears the dark, indeed it is a universal dread which one must learn to conquer. A poet learns his lesson generally by finding himself early in life shunned, he is odd. `Why was I born with a different face?’ Blake asked. Genius is fundamentally odd and men hate the exceptional.”

-Jack Butler Yeats

Edward Hopper room-in-new-york

Edward Hopper, A Room In New York.

 

Another thing that got me thinking lately, is that I’ve been hearing loads of people from all different walks of life talking about how they don’t fit in.  Have been the outsider. Experienced some kind of difference between them and the mainstream. Indeed, I’ve heard this so often lately, that I’ve actually wondered whether anyone feels like they truly belong. Indeed, is this sense of not belonging, of feeling different, something that affects the majority and not just the fringe?

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple Inc.

I don’t know. However, I’d like to find out and that’s why I’ve posed this question to you: Do you feel like you belong? Or, do you feel different or unique in some way that shuts you out?

Michelangelo The Creation of Adam close up

Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam (close-up)

As for myself, I’m simply starting to believe that I see the world differently, and that’s okay. That I have a way of seeing in between the lines, that has something to offer others whatever that might be. At the same time, I can miss things that are like neon signs to other people. However, that’s why we have community, because each of us has their own unique perspective, and I guess we’re all meant to come together to form a whole. However, too often, people ostracize and ridicule those who see things differently from themselves, instead of embracing their perspective and working out how it could contribute to the dialogue. It’s a pity.

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”

–  Oprah Winfrey

There is also value in being your own person, and not just merging in with the crowd. Of not being afraid to stand in your own space, stand up tall, spread your wings and not apologize for being there. Each of us deserves that.

Edward Hopper nighthawks

Edward Hopper, Night Hawks

I’m not sure if all these thoughts have joined together in any kind of cohesive whole. If I was someone else, I’d have my list of points and might even be telling you how it is. However, I am more of a seeker. Somebody who is seeing dim shadows and shapes through the fog and trying to make sense of it all. Trying to make sense of what I think is an important consideration…Does anyone feel like they truly belong in  our modern civilization? That’s probably putting it too strong, but you get my drift and I’m truly interested to read your feedback.

So, I’ll leave you know with the thoughts of Aslan:

“Don’t doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.”

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Family History Uncovered… Broken-Hearted Ivy Sues for Breach of Promise.

If you haven’t got stuck into the realms of family history, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Murder, intrigue, theft, broken hearts…I’ve stumbled across the lot, mostly through the online newspapers. Indeed, I haven’t needed to ply elderly relatives with sherry. It’s all been there in black & white, and for better or worse, I’ve been a fly on the wall.

However, while there’s that excitement of stumbling across a bit of intrigue or scandal, I’m also mindful of respecting the people involved. Needing to be understanding, compassionate and above all else, ethical. Remind myself that these details appearing in the news, only represent a brief snapshot of the person’s life. Moreover, the news only reports on the sensational, and not the hum drum everyday. So, it’s far from representational.

This then raises the issue of whether such stories from the past are better left alone, buried in between the lines of text. Or, if there’s any point bringing it all back to life…

My view is, that we can learn quite a lot about ourselves and about life, from the ups and downs of our ancestors and their extended family and social networks. Moreover, since these people share at least some of our DNA, these life lessons are much more tailor-made and geared towards our make-up, and potentially much more relevant than something you’d read in a book. These people might not be us, but they’re at least part of that complex very populated DNA soup, which contributes to who we are.

Yesterday, I went back to 1857 sharing the story of a gripping fight, which took place on Sydney’s North Shore between Thomas Waterhouse, and a menacing thug known as “One-Eyed Bourke”.

Today, I’m sharing another story from my family history treasure trove. Today, I’m bringing you the love story of Ivy and Jack. Well, love story might not be the best way to describe their relationship, because after promising to marry Ivy many times and even after having a baby together, Jack kept Ivy dangling on a string while he started to pursue Paula Muller, who ultimately became his wife. Bastard. Naturally, I’m backing Ivy here, but someone also needs to speak up for Baby Jack as well. Baby Jack’s time on earth was very brief, and at this point I don’t know how long he survived, but it wasn’t long. However, while his father paid for Ivy’s confinement and was at least okay for them to be known as Mr & Mrs Berecry, when it came to actually filling out the registration papers, he balked and baby Jack didn’t get his father’s name. He was registered as “John Wilson” and the space for his father, was left blank. He wouldn’t acknowledge his own son.

Meanwhile, Ivy was left not only with a deep sense of heartbreak, but also the shame of being a “fallen woman”. The sense of limbo of their baby not having his father’s name, and trying to put that right even though their baby was dead.

While you are reading through Ivy and Jack’s story, I thought you ‘d enjoy listening to Phil Davidson singing: Broken Things. It’s

Valentine 1910

I have questioned whether to reproduce this story, and then wondered whether to change the names. However, it’s all there in the online newspapers. It wasn’t told me in confidence. Moreover, this story clearly illustrates just how much our dating culture has changed in a hundred years. I can’t see too many modern daughters submitting to their mother’s wishes regarding who they can date etc. A single parent is now also commonplace. I think it’s important to consider how things have changed. I’d also like my kids to think about who they’re dating, how to treat them and also how they should be treated. While suing someone for breach of promise sounds a bit ridiculous these days, the fact that we can no longer trust a person’s word, is cause for reflection. That’s hardly what I’d call “progress”.

Lastly, I should just point out my family connection with Ivy Wilson. Her mother was my Great Great Grandmother’s sister. We had a John Johnston who married Maria Bridget Flanagan and their daughter, Mary Anne married Thomas Charles Wilson, and had two children Thomas and Emma Ivy Wilson. My grandmother spoke of Mary Anne and how she had a beautiful singing voice.

So, without any further ado, here’s one of the many newspaper reports from the day…

my heart is yours

Enter a caption

BERECRY BACKS DOWN.

LEAVES HIS LASS LAMENTING But Ivy with the Broken Heart

Chases Her Carpenter to Court And Gets a Verdict for £200.

A sanguine-looking young man, arrayed in his working suit, named John Patrick Berecry, a contracting carpenter of Folly Point, was the defendant in an action brought against him at the District Court on Monday and Tuesday, before Judge Murray and a Jury of four, by a young woman named Emma Ivy Wilson of Collins-street, North Sydney, for breach of promise. The jilted one, who was but 21 years of age, three years younger than the loveless swain, claimed £400. Mr. Coyle and Mr. Alroy Cohen, instructed by Mr. J. W. Abigail, appeared for the plaintiff, while Mr. Breckenridge, instructed by Mr. Reynolds, appeared for the defendant. Berecry, in his answer to the plaint, denied the promise of marriage, and said that Ivy Emma was not always willing to marry; and further, that they agreed to rescind the alleged contract. Ivy Emma Wilson, a slender young woman of attractive appearance, living at home with her mother at North Shore, said she was introduced to Berecry by her brother at a picnic at Balmoral Beach at Eight Hour Day, 1907. She was 16 then, and had just finished her education at a girls’ boarding-school. Berecry was invited to a musical evening at her home, and her mother consenting, they kept company for a couple of years. Then, in December, 1909, they became engaged, and he gave her a ring, it being agreed that the wedding would take place on her reaching 21. In January, 1911, she went to Trundle for a couple of months, returning in March. About the end of that month Berecry seduced her, and the intimacy was continued right up to the following November, when a child was born. The infant, however, died shortly after birth. That same night Berecry called at the house, and told both the doctor and the nurse that plaintiff was his wife, but afterwards when a certificate had to be filled in, he retracted it. Some months after this, Berecry keeping her company as usual, she fell ill, and went to the hospital, and afterwards went away to Boggabri for the good of her health. Berecry saw her off. but by this time his PASSION HAD COOLED, for he never wrote to her, nor answered any of her letters. Before this, however, he could write her loving letters a yard long, and one of a bunch ran as follows; — Folly Point, Tuesday. My darling Ivy, — Just few lines to let know that I would wrote before but I was home to late on Monday night from the meeting. I hope you are getting on all right and soon be better for I miss you so no where go and I can’t enjoy myself without you. Now loving Bi Bi you are going to give up dancing and you will tell George that you do not want him any more. I gave up Flo and sis for you and I would give up hundred girls for you if will be true to me. Dear love I am going to keep you to your word and go to church every Sunday for about three years and will go one day Miss Wilson and come home Mrs. Berecry….

I was going up to Tom to-night to help to make some picture frames, but I was too tired. I did not feel too well to day. I was going to come home at dinner time but I stuck to it like a britan all day because I had to. Dear love don’t forget to remind me about a strange letter I got from Melbourne, Now don’t forget and I will tell you all about it if you are by your self it is about the best ever had. That hurt me about what that bloke said when Martin kissed you Sunday, he said he will tell gerry on you it hurt, did you see the look Jane give me when he said it and the other girl too, I felt like kicking him all up a tree. Now I got him set like george for saying that. I was going to tell you on Sunday that your ring is going to be a quid cheaper. It was going to be three pound ten, but it is going to be two pound ten. That for writing that letter for nothing. They have some nice ones for two ten the three ten are to heavy, but it don’t matter what they cost so long as it is for you. Dear love I am foreman of this job I am on for about a month if I don’t get the run before then I will be all right my own boss. What do you think, I am the dreadnaught. Now darling Ivy this Is all I have to say time. — Yours loveing Jack. x x x x x (score or more) all for you, nothing for Flo Mc Enmore.

DP826256

A Love Letter, Simon Charles Miger (French, Nemours 1736–1820 Paris)

Plaintiff, continuing, said that once Berecry. when she was ill, wished her to go with him to a party at a Mrs. Haron’s, and because she didn’t acquiesce, he said, ‘There must be somebody there you are afraid to see,’ and going out, he shortly came back ‘

WITH A REVOLVER and called her a blanky cow. She jumped out of bed and snatched away the weapon, which was found to be loaded ; and a little while later Berecry came back with the excuse that he was sorry. They parted good friends, Berecry mentioning that one of the bullets had been intended for himself. The wedding ought to have taken place In January of last year, but she learnt that he had engaged himself to another. Finally, after a lot of talk, they agreed that the wed-ding should come off on July 12; but one Sunday in June she discovered that he had been meeting one Paula Muller, her rival, and this made her so despondent that she drank lysol. Dr. Hastings, however, pulled her through. Berecry said he merely went to tell Paula that he must give her up, and on July 8 he asked Mrs. Wilson, her mother, to arrange for the wedding, recommending her to go to the Rev. Charles Jones, in Liver-pool-street, and promising to find the money for the ring on the ensuing Fri-day. Mrs, Wilson saw Jones, and arranged that the wedding would be performed by a Methodist minister. Then Berecry objected to any Methodist having a hand in it whereupon she got Jones to arrange with the Rev. Macaulay to marry them, and paid him 5s deposit. The ring was bought, and everything looked lovely this time, but when the hour came, Berecry was sick in bed, saying he had been vaccinated. Plaintiff hunted him up, and asked why he hadn’t sent her word, but he told her to go away and not worry him. However, she stayed talking to him till 10 o’clock, and extracted a promise that he would be married on the Saturday. No wedding took place, however, though Berecry took her to the pictures on the Monday. The next night she watched him meet Paula Muller and walk arm-in-arm with her to a picture show in Lower George-street. After he had seen Paula to the tram, plaintiff asked him what he meant by his conduct; but he denied he was with Paula. He next said he couldn’t give up Paula because he had borrowed £60 from her. This kind of humbugging went on for some time, and then finally his mother, when asked what had become of him, tearfully cried, ‘My poor Jack,’ and said he had gone away, she didn’t know where. She told his mother they were to have been married that night, whereupon the old lady said, ‘How could Jack keep you?’ adding that although he was her son, she could give him a character as the biggest liar in the world. A letter plaintiff wrote to him was as follows. — 42 Collins-street, Nth Sydney, 2/7/1913, Wed., 6 a.m. My dear Jack, — Once again you have driven me to desperation, and I can stand It no longer. You always promised before and after our baby boy was born that as soon as I came twenty-one you would marry me. Now you want to cut me off for another woman. You promised mum and I last night you would marry me in three months. Now, Jack, if you intended to marry me, would you be going away to-night to meet another woman? All I ask you is your name for the sake of your baby and my character. I don’t ask you to live with me or, yes, support me, as most people on the Shore think we are man and wife. If you are frightened of breach of promise with this other girl, what about me, that holds your love letters for over five years. The only thing I can see to do is to get Mr. J. W. Abigail’s advice on the matter, and that I intend doing first thing to-morrow, 3rd inst. Only last Saturday you were quite prepared to marry me at any time in the registry office (or rather you said you were) and me to go away for six months and keep it quiet, not to tell anyone. That I was prepared to do. You have broken your promise to me; I have not broken mine. I am prepared to be your wife at any moment, and ask nothing further from you. Once I poisoned myself for love of you, and through the shame which you have caused me. There is no telling how this will end. I can’t sleep at night. I can’t eat or rest day or night. — Your broken-hearted Ivy.

Continuing her story, plaintiff said she received no reply to this letter. She did not again meet Berecry until August 25, at the Quay, when he laughed at her, and inquired if she was trying to put the father of her child into gaol. He later on begged her not to go on with the case, saying that he had not refused to marry her. On October 10 she again met him, when after inquiring when the case would come off, he said, ‘You are only putting your neck in a sling, because I have not yet refused to marry you. I have lots of witnesses against you, and will put in a bill for £20 for your confinement. You will get five years, and I want my rings back.’ Evidence was called to show that Berecry told others that he would marry plain-tiff as soon as she came of age. Berecry did not give evidence, and therefore the matter resolved itself into a question of damages. And the jury, after a very brief deliberation, awarded plaintiff £200. Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 – 1954), Sunday 26 October 1913, page 11

…..

It is interesting reflecting on this situation between Ivy and Jack, because it reminds me about the relationship between Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Munter. In 1892, Kandinsky had married his cousin, Anna Chemyakina. She took care of her husband and moved with him to Germany. However, in 1903 Kandinsky met and began a relationship with Gabriele Münter, one of his students at the Phalanx School. The two became inseparable. Kandinsky kept promising to divorce his wife and marry her, stringing love struck Münter along. Finally, in 1911, Kandinsky returned to Russia, and divorced his wife. Yet, he still didn’t marry Gabriele Münter. Rather, he continued living with her as his lover. Unfortunately, when Germany declared war on Russia in August 1914, Kandinsky was considered an enemy alien and only had three days to get out. Since he couldn’t take much with him, he left the bulk of his paintings and possessions with Münter. The couple rushed to Switzerland and while in Zurich, Kandinsky broke up with her. For two years she urged a reunion. It took place in neutral Scandinavia in 1916, but failed. Well, that’s according to some of the sources I’ve read. Others are less clear about the breakup, suggesting he was still stringing her along. Well, Kandinsky did get married, but it wasn’t to Gabriele Münter. Rather, he married 18 year old, Nina Andreievskaya, and he didn’t tell Münter. Indeed, he only came clean four years later when she received a letter from his lawyer demanding she return his personal effects and artworks. Not unsurprisingly, Gabriele didn’t return all his paintings, and kept these as “moral compensation”. While I’m very surprised Gabriel didn’t burn the lot, she actually kept them safe behind a secret wall in her basement during successive raids by the Nazis and Russians. Kandinsky never saw his paintings again. However, in 1957, Münter gave the stash to Munich, Stadtische Galerie in Lenbach. At least, the survival of this collection was a positive outcome of Gabriele’s grief.

By the way, I should point out that Ivy married Abram Hocking in 1915. I lose track of her after the 1950s where she was living in Newcastle. I can only hope that she moved onto greener pastures and found love and happiness.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

A Lover’s Potion…Friday Fictioneers

Nobody had ever sent Michelle a letter before. Not even a postcard. Text had become the language of love. Yet, Jerome was different. A poet. Not that she understood any of his writings. He was in her philosophy class, and they kept running into each other until it was a long lingering picnic in Central Park. So, she didn’t think twice, as she inhaled the white powder….a touch of romance. Off to start her shift at the Met, she tucked the letter into her journal. Not even a doubt, she spread its sweet perfume throughout the packed August crowds. A woman in love is an easy target.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Bets wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

Belated Weekend Coffee Share 29th May, 2018.

Welcome to a coffee share that is so late, that I’ve even missed the online deadline. The shop is shut, and for the first time ever, I’ve been left outside pounding on the door: “Let me in ! Let me in!”

Well, it’s my own fault. Even the extended weekend opening hours have to come to an end, and given that it’s now Tuesday afternoon, I am actually wondering whether I should be hosting a weekend coffee share after all. Isn’t it just a bit too late? Why don’t I save it up for next weekend?

 

Above: I am enjoying Autumn.

You see, the thing is that I actually had a very busy and exciting week last week and it’s actually too much to even condense into one week let alone spread it over two, even if the next week is looking rather empty after doing so much. Indeed, I’m currently needing rest and recover.

However, I also figured that some of us need that daily coffee hit, and perhaps a few caffeine addicts might be needing a mid-week hit.

So, given that I’m so far behind, I’m just going to take you through the highlights.

Last Tuesday, which is now exactly a week ago, I have a fairly important meeting with my lung specialist. My lung volumes have dropped by 20% in the last six months and instead of his usual: “I’ll see you in six months”, it was I’ll see you in two weeks and you need to have a lung scan and also handed me a swag of other tests. Well, I didn’t pass them all in flying colours. That goes with the territory. However, my lungs haven’t changed and that’s what really matters. So, from where I was coming from, I consider that good news.

 

After the lung specialist, I caught the train into the Art Gallery of NSW and saw the Archibald Exhibition. This is Australia’s most prized portrait competition, and it’s also been prone to quite a bit of controversy over the years. I am rediscovering my passion for art atm, and just even the sensation of looking at deep brush strokes carved through thick, luscious paint. I can’t explain what it does to me, but it like walking into a dark house at night and all the lights suddenly switching on at once. Wow! I wasn’t necessarily conscious of it at the time. However, I found myself drawn into the eyes and even zooming in and photographing just the eyes on quite a number of portraits. They seems to be telling me something, although in typical fashion, I can’t quite decipher the words and the messages is quite nebulous and difficult to untangle. Anyway, it’s left me wanting  to learn how to draw eyes. Humph..I ‘d probably be better off trying to trace around my hand. Art is an intimidating thing to step into. I was even anxious and crippled with self-doubt as a kid, and when my teacher picked me up on it, I wasn’t bad. Indeed, I got an A.

Anyway, I ended up writing two posts about my trip to the Art Gallery and this included a look at the importance of eye contact.

 

Moving right along, on Friday I caught the train down to Parramatta where Geoff and I went staying for a Couples’ Retreat with Muscular Dystrophy NSW. I am a member of MDNSW because my auto-immune disease is considered a neuro-muscular condition. The Muscular Dystrophy Association actually has quite a broad scope helping people with quite a range of very rare conditions under that one umbrella, which can ideally get the lot of us more acknowledgement and assistance. By bringing us all together, I wouldn’t call it a self-help group. I just see it as being like any networking meeting with colleagues. We encourage and understand each other and while most of us straggle to walk or are in scooters, wheelchairs etc, we still seem to “stand on our own two feet”. We’re a fairly independent bunch. Staff are there to facilitate the get togethers, provide additional information and are sort of like the backbone, which holds us together. I find it very important to mix with “my people” because I get sick of trying to explain myself everywhere else and it becomes a place of psychological, mental and physical rest. That said, I did become pretty animated meeting up with my own and I was exhausted at the end of the weekend, also because we pushed ourselves to see as much of Parramatta as we could. I could recover when I got home.

DSC_0395

Writing with a real quill…Or, at least, being a poseur.

I’ve written a few extensive posts about our trip to Parramatta, and haven’t caught up yet. However, there was walking around the streets of Parramatta and talking in the historic St John’s Church and Town Hall while stopping off at cafes and being quite mesmerized photographing the fountain in Centenary Square. My husband and I are both photographers and see the world better through the lens. We also toured historic Elizabeth Farm, where you could interact with the exhibits and really get a feel for the place and Government House which had real artifacts and was much more stuffy.

Corellas.JPG

I haven’t quite had time to write up about visiting Parramatta Park, which runs along side the Parramatta River. However, in addition to falling in love with the oaks trees in their glorious Autumn finery, we couldn’t but spot a huge tree where hundreds of cockatoos (Corellas) had found a home. They were making an awful din, if that’s how you interpret the screech of the cockatoo. Anyway, something scared them and all of a sudden the sky was filled with birds in a way I have never quite seen before. It was amazing and fortunately the camera cooperated and we managed to seize the moment. Yippee! Photography is so much like fishing and so often I’m left talking about the one  that got away. However, this time, I actually caught it.

a million birds take flight.JPG

Since returning home, I’ve had a big sleep. Actually, a number of big sleeps in addition to trying to share our wonderful adventures on the blog.

Here are some links to posts from my travels:

What Are Museums For?

A Weekend In Parramatta, Sydney

An Autumn Stroll in Sydney

Making Eye Contact At the Art Gallery of NSW

The Artists Behind the Eyes

We hope you and yours had a great week and that you enjoyed catching up with me for coffee and enjoying a little piece of Australia.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ecclectic Ali

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

What Are Museums For?

Yesterday, we had what I will call “an unfortunate museum encounter”, which has raised the question, at least in my own mind, about why we have museums and how the interaction between visitor and exhibits should be conducted. Are we still living in the days where the museum dictates how the public should respond to an exhibit? Or, have we loosened the chains and allowed the public to discover history for themselves?

Over the last week, I unwittingly put this philosophical question to the test when I saw the Archibald Exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW,  Elizabeth Farm at Rose Hill and Old Government House out at Parramatta, in Western Sydney. Since I’ve already shared my interpretation of the Archibald Exhibition, today I’ll be focusing on Elizabeth Farm and Old Government House.

Somewhere along the dimly lit corridors of memory, I remember visiting Elizabeth Farm as a child and given my love of history and historic architecture, I’ve always wanted to go back. However, I’ve only been out to Parramatta a couple of times. Although it’s a major city, it’s a bit off the beaten track for us. Moreover, when you’re caught up in the rush and bustle, museums seem like a bit of a luxury…an indulgence. Something, I usually only get around to on holidays, or if there’s a special exhibition.

DSC_0395

Looking like a real writer with my quill at Elizabeth Farm.

What I really loved about Elizabeth Farm is that it is a touchy-feel museum. Everything inside is a replica or historical equivalent, including the portraits on the wall, which look very authentic. They’ve even gone to the trouble of copying the very sideboards, chairs and other pieces of furniture, and using them to furnish the house. That meant, I could touch everything. I could smell the spices on display in the kitchen, and I could even sit down at the writing desk and chair and pose for photos holding the quill. That gave me a real buzz…Rowena the writer. We could also sit down on the lounge chairs, with their firm horse hair bases and run our hands through the soft, luxurious possum fur rugs, which were draped over the top. Indeed, it was quite a sensory experience. (We are, however, hoping that the rug was made from New Zealand possums which are actually an environmental pest, very much like rabbits are here in Australia). There was also an informative DVD about the history of the house narrated by much loved Australian actor, Garry McDonald. When I heard him talk about bringing that sense of being in a bustling household back to life. I immediately thought about the houses I grew up in and indeed our own home with kids and dogs running through the place and a sense of chaos, adventure, laughter, tears and amusement. This place was anything but a mausoleum.

By the way, I should also add that we went on an informative tour of the house and our guide was absolutely delightful and very informative. Indeed, initially when it was just Geoff and I on the tour, I immediately introduced ourselves, and she said: “you were reading my mind. That rarely happens”. So, that was a lovely personal touch, along with the fact she’s worked at Hyde Park Barracks, which is of personal interest to me as I’m descended from an Irish famine Orphan who passed through there.

Elizabeth Farm

Joseph Lycett, The residence of John McArthur Esqre. near Parramatta, New South Wales, 1825. Sydney Living Museums.

Sunday, we drove over to Parramatta Park and visited Old Government House, which was a very different experience. Old Government House is owned by the National Trust and the displays are authentic historical items, while Elizabeth Farm is part of of the Living Museums network. I don’t know if my experience is typical of visiting a National Trust venue and indeed, I hope it isn’t. However, upon arrival and paying our entry fees, we were told no flash photography. We were given no other limits on photography. I was not only struck by the grand entry hallway, but also the keyhole. I have visited a number of historic homes in my time, but as far as I can recall, it’s the first time I’ve actively looked through the keyhole into the world outside and had what I will call an “Alice in Wonderland experience”. I don’t think I’d actually considered that you could see anything through a keyhole, and it reminded me of childhood stories, eves dropping, spying…seeing and hearing the forbidden. Something not intended for your eyes and ears. So, I knelt down in front of the keyhole and toppled over onto my derriere and perched my camera in front of the keyhole trying to capture the tree outside.

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Naughty Alice looking through the key hole…Old Government House, Parramatta. National Trust.

Unfortunately, that’s when wonderland came to an abrupt halt. I was squawked at by a rather militant guide, who told me you’re not allowed to take close-up photos in the house, only room shots. She also seemed quite irritated that I was actually sitting at the door and was stopping other people from viewing it and that I could come back and book in a photo shoot. She scared the bejeebers  out of me, and I felt like a naughty little school girl who was taking photos of the staff room or some other private, inner sanctum. I’d been a “bad, bad girl”.

However, the thing was that I wasn’t in a forbidden inner sanctum. I had paid my entry fee. I wasn’t using my flash and by looking through the keyhole, I wasn’t even photographing something inside. Indeed, most of what I captured was the sky, which to the best of my clearly inferior knowledge, isn’t the property of the National Trust. I was so shaken and outraged, in quite an uncharacteristic way, that I approached her. The whole thing seemed mad, and after the great time we’d had only the day before and going into the Art Gallery of NSW during the week and being able to photograph even the finalists of the Archibald Competition up close, it made no sense. Indeed, I also noticed another visitor taking close-up shots like myself but using her phone instead of an SLR with zoom, and nothing was said to her. Fortunately, after encountering this woman, we met another guide who was very friendly and chatty and helped me to calm down.

Above- There was an exhibition on covering Governor Phillip’s time in India and establishing the links between India and NSW through history. As early as 1850, 4 ships a week were arriving in Sydney from India, so there were close cultural ties.

By the way, I would also like to point out that there were only a few people in Old Government House at the time. So, it wasn’t like I was blocking traffic. Indeed, the Archibald Exhibition was much more crowded and nobody complained there.

This brings me back to my original question about the role of museums these days. Have we moved beyond the starchy museums of the the past into something more interactive? Or, given the value and fragility of the exhibits, does that line between exhibit and audience still need to be maintained and never the twain shall meet?

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Is this where I belong?

Of course, I would like to see some combination of the two and this is what I am used to in museums these days. There are elements of the exhibition that the kids and tactile people can touch and feel along with audio-visual presentations which bring the history to life. I think visitors to our museums have spread their wings, and don’t appreciate having them clipped by an old world approach.

What do you think? What is your experience of contemporary museums? Please leave your feedback in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Details

Elizabeth Farm is located at 70 Alice Street, Rosehill, near Parramatta.

Old Government House is located in Parramatta Park.

An Autumn Stroll in Sydney…

For those of you who don’t live in Sydney, I apologise in advance that there are no photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the Opera House on this walk. That’s because this walk isn’t about Sydney. Rather, it’s more about immersing yourself in the golden yellows of Autumn and appreciating nature in all her finery.

If you live in many parts of the world, you might take such Autumn colours for granted. However, I live close to the beach and there aren’t many English style gardens around here. With our sandy soil and low rainfall, they just don’t grow or are extremely high maintenance. Our Australian natives are evergreen and so we just don’t have those forests of Autumn colours you see elsewhere. This all means that I get quite dazzled by Autumn colours and that despite being forty something, I’m still prone to collecting Autumn leaves.

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So, now that I’ve started painting this story from my perspective, perhaps you’ll better understand my excitement when I emerged from the underground tunnels of St James train station, and saw Macquarie Street all lit up with glowing, golden leaves back lit by a bright, blue sky. It was glorious!

So, I wanted to invite you to join me for a bit of a stroll today, which starts out in Hyde Park and goes along Macquarie Street, through the Domain and finishes on the Art Gallery Steps.

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As I walked along Macquarie Street, the photographic focus became historic Sydney Hospital, which was opened in 1811 and is Australia’s oldest running hospital. While in other parts of the word such a building would be relatively “modern”, by Australian standards it’s “old”, but not quite ancient.

You can take a short cut through Sydney Hospital to get to the Art Gallery. The short cut has a lot of rustic charm and you really feel like you’re stepping back in time, and yet you’re not if that makes any sense.

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A rear view of Sydney Hospital with modern skyscrapers peering over her shoulders.

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I thought this sign was rather funny. Hospital Road runs in between Sydney Hospital and The Domain (park). I am a bit concerned about where a trip down Hospital Road might take you…a one way trip with no return.

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Playing sport in The Domain under the shadow of high rise.

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Lunch time joggers running through The Domain. Note the huge fig trees, which are very popular.

And finally we arrive at the Art Gallery of NSW.

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Hope you enjoyed the walk.

Best wishes,

Rowena