As a prize winner of the Out Loud art exhibition, I won a week of exhibition space in the window gallery at The Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst. But still I was not yet ready to exhibit. I had to find the right time.
I met Charles Heyen mid 2010. He had come to Australia from the USA to do a post graduate course in Sydney as a curator. He had been following my work for several years and met with me one week after he arrived. At that first meeting we discussed the possibility of us working together to put on a showing of my artwork.
My partner Todd Barry urged me to pick a time for the exhibition in order to make it real. I started looking at possible time slots, but I wanted it to mean something special to me.
I knew that our good friend Colleen Doran was visiting this year as the guest speaker at the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics MasterClass and I thought she would be the perfect person to launch it. After asking Colleen if she would be so kind as to be the guest speaker and open my art exhibition, and her heartfelt confirmation, I finally had a date. The day after the MasterClass – Monday 21 November 2011. I then had three months to put the exhibition together.
Charles and I looked over the collection of my original artworks that had been sitting in drawers for storage... some for 15-20 years. He was surprised to see so many originals to choose from. With his help to shape the look of the exhibition, we made our selections.
Stephen Frizza also supported me by helping me decide which digital artworks would best support the originals in the exhibition, then created the amazing collection of digital prints from my artworks on archive quality photo paper.
Three weeks before the show opened, The Tap Gallery informed me with some alarm that the window gallery space had been double-booked. We then relocated the exhibition into the middle gallery space, and the new larger dimensions allowed the numbers of artworks to be put on display to grow.
The Elizabet Bizelle and sister Kotalin Bizelle dolls I had created also had their place set for the exhibition.
Todd helped me by purchasing the frames for the art exhibition. All from IKEA. The many colours available helped group the original and print artworks into period themes.
The day of the opening, Todd's parents – Ken and Rhonda Barry– helped Charles, Todd and myself put up the artworks onto the walls.
It, of course, took longer to accomplish then planned. In total, 40 of my works were displayed at The Tap Gallery.
My sister Elizabeth arrived with food, while I ducked home to shower and get presentable for the opening that evening.
Elizabeth had offered to organise the food for the opening night. With her three friends – Christine, Barbara, and Vicky – the food she created and prepared was amazing. I wanted to grab a mouthful as I had hardly eaten all day, but I was aware that I would be constantly in conversation with my guests who attended the exhibition. Last thing I wanted was salmon breath, or food stuck in my teeth. Rhonda also created lovely slices and rum balls to the delight of the guests.
Todd had purchased white wine to share with the guests, and Ken and Rhonda looked after the wine glasses.
Julie set up the Black Mermaid Shop table where our Elf-Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed Preview comic and Mermist Seas prints were available for sale.
When Todd, Charles, Colleen and I arrived back to the exhibition at 6pm, I was surprised to see about 20 people already there and milling about looking at my artworks.
Then came a greater swell of people arriving through to about 7:15pm. The room became so crowded, it was almost shoulder to shoulder in the exhibition space. People spilled into the adjoining exhibition spaces to make room. It was so full of people coming to see my artwork and wanting to talk with me about the works, it was overwhelming for me. My knees started to feel weak and shake.
Colleen Doran [pictured right with me and Charles] did a wonderful speech about how "... out of shit, good things grow". This was in reference to how we met – when we experienced a common publisher that gave us both grief. She mentioned that the colours of my work speak to her in a unique fashion, and that my work has significance in her home country of USA.
I did a quick speech to thank everyone that had helped to create this event, and to all who came to experience my first solo exhibition opening night. I dedicated this first solo art exhibition to my father, who passed away earlier this year. He had always supported my art, and it was his dream to see me exhibit. I didn't get to realise that while he was alive, but I felt his loving spirit in the room with me on opening night. (I am thankful that the last time I saw him awake he got to see the Elf-Fin comic book preview... it made him so very happy.) I thanked my mum who had always been there with love, supporting me in my artistic journey and through all things beyond that. I thanked my wonderful partner Todd Barry who has been there beside me all the way with great love and without judgement in all things. I thanked Julie Ditrich and Bruce Love, whose partnerships in comics influenced so many of the artworks I had on the walls. I thanked Charles Heyen for his expertise in curating this event. I thanked Colleen Doran for her continued friendship and artistic and professional support in my career. I thanked my sister Elizabeth for constant love and support and with the help with the food, and I thanked my brother-in-law Michael Moor for helping me financially so many years ago with the loan to help me realise the dream of creating my own doll line. I thanked Ken and Rhonda Barry for being there with love and support. There were many more wonderful people to thank, but my mind was too overwhelmed to continue.
Several original artworks sold – one original WaveDancers piece actually sold prior to the event opening to an American collector. Many prints were also sold during the course of the exhibition. Thank you to those people that believed in my work and purchased my art. I'm extremely grateful of the support and interest in my work. As an artist, I earn money from the artwork I create so I can survive. These sales will help me get into the new year and allow me to create new work.
The Tap Gallery announced they wanted to extend the exhibition by an extra week at their expense.
Over the entire two week showing, I was present for all but one day, which was covered by Charles.
Several nights after the opening night, I apparently was talking in my sleep. I ended up waking myself up by my own words, "Thank you for coming to my exhibition". It was obviously a dream made a reality and then returned to my dream life.
I loved the experience, I had never seen so many of my own originals on display all at once myself... and all framed. It was surreal and wonderful.
I do intend to exhibit again, it was too good an experience to do it only once in a lifetime.
Thank you to everyone that was involved, some of those of whom I have mentioned in this retelling of the events. I hope to see you all at my next art exhibition.