Recent News at Kluge-Ruhe

How UVA Has Become a Global Center for Indigenous Art • Friday February 2, 2018

Click here for this article, written by UVA Today writer Caroline Newman.

Newest exhibition and residency: Carol McGregor • Monday January 15, 2018

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is pleased to announce that its newest exhibition, Repositories of Recognition, will feature recent artwork made by Aboriginal Australian artist Carol McGregor. McGregor’s artwork explores how Indigenous identity has been stereotyped and primitivized in the tourist trade, and how the revival of traditional practices can demonstrate her people’s complexity and diversity.

Since the 1950s, the images on linen tea towels produced for the tourist trade have both appropriated Aboriginal designs and misrepresented Aboriginal people as “noble savages.” McGregor has been collecting these tea towels for years, and in some of the works on view at Kluge-Ruhe, she has strategically embroidered over them, creating new subversive meanings from the original content.

In the central piece of the exhibition, not a calendar girl, McGregor has cut up the tea towels and reconstructed them as aprons, literally deconstructing the original meaning by turning them inside out and embroidering her own messages on top of them. The aprons are also a reference to the many Aboriginal people who were forced into domestic service as a result of colonization. Beneath the aprons, she places bags made from natural possum skins. Possum skins were historically sewn together into cloaks for practical purposes (as coats, blankets, baby wraps or rugs in winter), but were also incised and painted with sacred designs, serving as containers of Indigenous identity. By placing these two disparate forms of artworks in conversation with each other, McGregor exposes the harm done by the ongoing misrepresentation of Indigenous identity in the media, and contradicts it with a statement about the sophisticated identities mapped on possum skins.

Curator Henry Skerritt explains that “This powerful body of work resonates with the contemporary struggles of Native and African American communities to shake the insidious effects of stereotyping. At a time when numerous professional sporting teams in the US persist in using racially charged mascots and emblems, McGregor’s work points to the continuing pain that such representations embody.”

Carol McGregor is an Indigenous Australian artist of Wathaurung and Scottish descent, and Repositories of Recognition encapsulates both sides of her biracial identity. She holds a Bachelor’s in Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art and Fine Art from the Queensland College of Art, and is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at Griffith University.

Repositories of Recognition will be on view January 19 – May 13, 2018. McGregor will visit Charlottesville as an artist-in-residence from February 1 – 27, 2018. There are a number of opportunities for the public to meet Carol and learn more about her art practice. She will be present for questions and conversation at the opening reception on Friday, February 9 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm; she will give a tour of the exhibition on Saturday, February 10 at 10:30 am, and she will deliver an artist talk on Thursday, February 22 at 6:00 pm. In addition to these events, she will be making a possum skin cloak while she is here, guest-lecturing to various classes at UVA and will present a public workshop at a date to be determined. Check for updated details. McGregor’s residency is supported by Australia Council for the Arts.

Tasmanian Artist Julie Gough to Visit UVA Exploring Memorials and History • Wednesday October 11, 2017

Indigenous Tasmanian artist Julie Gough, whose artwork explores the absence of memorials to the histories of genocide and massacre that occurred on her native land in Tasmania, will visit Charlottesville October 25 – November 21 to explore this topic. An installation of her artwork titled Hunting Ground is currently on view at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection.

For Hunting Ground, Gough did extensive research into how Tasmania went from plentiful hunting grounds for Indigenous people to a land where those same people were hunted down when it was invaded and colonized by the British in the 19th century. After researching the massacres that took place, only some of which are known and documented, Gough created her own memorials to those dark events and posted them where they occurred, re-inscribing the land with an almost forgotten history.

In her upcoming residency, Gough will explore these topics within an American and Charlottesville-specific context. While here, she will guest lecture to UVA classes in numerous departments and will discuss her art practice in a Gallery Talk on November 4 and an Artist Talk on November 16 at the museum, with a reception following.

Another key component of her residency is a symposium at UVA titled “Monumental Meanings: Indigenous Perspectives on Monuments and Memorials in Charlottesville and Beyond.” At this event, Gough, together with other Indigenous scholars and artists, will discuss their perspectives on monuments and memorials that include, reference feature or honor Indigenous people. Karenne Wood, Jeffrey Hantman, and Ben Walters are the other panelists, and Kasey Keeler will moderate. This event will take place on Tuesday, November 14 at 5:30 pm at Brooks Hall, with a reception for further discussion to follow.

Charlottesville Celebrates First Indigenous Peoples Day • Thursday October 5, 2017

In the past the second Monday of each October has been recognized as Columbus Day.  The City Council of Charlottesville recently made the decision to recognize this day as Indigenous Peoples Day.  Indigenous Peoples Day is a holiday celebrated in at least fifty U.S. cities and municipalities to honor and acknowledge the past and continuous presence of Native people in the Americas. It began before 1992 as a protest of Columbus Day, with Native groups contending that Columbus did not “discover” them—they were already here—and that the actions of Columbus and his men were not only less than heroic toward their ancestors, but that they committed genocide while invading and stealing their land.  With this historic change in Charlottesville, Kluge-Ruhe would like to share some ways to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day!

Ways to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on your Own


  • the exhibition Hear My Voice: Native American Art of the Past and Present at  the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond
  • the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA in Charlottesville
  • the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
  • the Fralin Museum of Art’s Object Study Gallery

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS by learning about local Indigenous people

  • Charlottesville’s Indigenous people are the Monacan Nation
  • visit or support the Monacan Ancestral Museum in Amherst
  • Check out the Virginia Indian Heritage Trail to learn about the tribes in Virginia

EDUCATE  yourself and others

  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,
  • Off the Reservation by Paula Gunn Allen
  • Everything You Know About Indians is Wrong by Paul Chaat Smith
  • Playing Indian by Philip Deloria
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South by Melinda Maynor Lowery
  • Reinventing the Enemy’s Language edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird
  • The Woman Who Watches Over the World by Linda Hogan
  • Soul Work edited by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy Palmer Jones
  • Learn about the harmful effects of Indian mascots as names of sports teams
     For more resources, check out the American Indian Library Association.

COUNTER  the dominant message in schools that Native peoples are history

  • AICL: American Indians in Children’s Literature blog
  • Why You Can’t Teach United States History Without American Indians by Juliana Barr and Susan Sleeper-Smith
  • Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin
  • A Broken Flute by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin
  • Want to go further?  Create a task force to find out what your children learn about Columbus and American Indians in school. Write letters to address your concern!
    WATCH  films related to Indigenous heritage or films made by Indigenous people
  • attend the Pocahontas Reframed: Native American Storytellers Film Festival, November 17 – 19 at the Byrd Theatre in Richmond
  • buy tickets to see the film Rumble at the Virginia Film Festival, which is a film about Native American musicians and rock ‘n roll
  • Reel Injun is a film about how Native people have been misrepresented in American cinema
  • anything by Native filmmaker Sterlin Harjo is a good idea
  • the groundbreaking feature film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is a fantastic Inuit film

SUPPORT  organizations that support Indigenous people

  • Give to the Virginia Indian Heritage Program at VFH (specify in the Instructions field)
  • Become a member of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA
  • Buy fashion created by Native American designers at Beyond Buckskin’s online store
  • Support Native booksellers by buying from Birchbark Books or the North American Native Authors Catalog
  • Give to one of the following organizations: American Indian Business Leaders, American Indian College Fund, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, American Indian Policy Center, Association of American Indian Affairs, Indian Country Today, National Alaska Native American Nurses Association, National Indian Child Care Association, National Indian Council on Aging, Native American Art Council, Naive American Business Alliance, Native American Capital, Native American Disability Law Center, Native American Financial Official Association, Native American Journalists Association, Native American Public Telecommunications, Native American Rights Fund, The Native American Times, National Native American AIDS Prevention Center, National Native American Bar Association, National Native American Law Enforcement Association, Native Peoples Magazine, Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations.

Ways not to celebrate

The list below contains some common forms of cultural misappropriation that are offensive:  

  • Dressing up, or encouraging children to dress up, like Indigenous people, especially at Halloween.
  • Giving yourself an “Indian name” or “creating your own tribe.”
  • Doing an art project that includes copying or “borrowing” Indigenous designs.
  • Wearing “Indian-inspired” clothing. Some stores sell “Navajo-inspired” designs, imitations of South Asian accessories, and decorations labeled “Japanese” from Urban Outfitters.
  • Creating your own “ceremony” that imitates Indigenous ceremonies or traditions.
  • reading Native American prayers aloud in a group if you are non-Indigenous

Artists Reconnect with Their Community's Artwork at Kluge-Ruhe • Wednesday September 13, 2017

Two Indigenous artists from Australia’s remote north will travel nearly 10,000 miles in September to reconnect with artworks in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection that were collected from their community in the 1960s. Raymond Bulumbula and his wife will be the inaugural visiting fellows of UVA’s Mellon Indigenous Arts Program.

The Visiting Fellows Program brings international Indigenous leaders to Charlottesville with the aim of integrating new perspectives into the University’s classrooms and museums. Bulumbula and his wife (Wobulkarra/Yolngu) are both senior artists and knowledge holders in their community of Milingimbi, a small island off the remote northern coast of Australia. After a mission was founded there in 1923, it quickly became a focal point for cross cultural and artistic contact and research. Community life is underpinned by the continuation of cultural practices and the making of artwork is a key part of this. Artistic practice inhabits a prominent place in Yolngu society and is core to governance and title, to country and ceremony, and unity and identity. The local art center, Milingimbi Art and Culture, is one of Australia’s premiere Aboriginal art and cultural organizations and has played an integral role in this opportunity.

During their visit in the United States from September 15 – October 8, Bulumbula and his wife will be conducting in-depth research and will provide interpretation of artworks from Milingimbi, making new artwork in collaboration with UVA students studying sculpture in the McIntire Department of Art and opening a new exhibition at the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C.

Edward Ruhe, who collected about two thirds of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, acquired more than a hundred works from Miilingimbi and visited the remote community on multiple occasions. According to curator Henry Skerritt, “Works from Milingimbi are some of the crown jewels of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. They capture a dynamic snapshot of one of the most exciting moments in Australian art, but one that has been underappreciated and under-researched. It will be a great honor and an important opportunity to have elders Raymond and [his wife] here.” The research that the artists undertake will culminate in an exhibition at Kluge-Ruhe that is scheduled to open in April 2018, showcasing the museum’s commitment to Indigenous curators and Indigenous voices.

Bulumbula and his wife will be guest teaching in Professor William Bennett’s Sculpture I and II classes to construct a ceremonial object named “marratjiri,” also known as a “morning star pole.” This process involves carving and painting with natural pigments, which will be brought from Milingimbi, and hand-spinning feathered string.

The best opportunity for the public to meet Raymond and his wife is Saturday, September 30, when they will discuss works from their community in a guided tour at 10:30 am, followed by a fiber-weaving demonstration by Raymond’s wife. Rafia will be supplied so that visitors can try weaving themselves.

On October 3, Bulumbula and his wife will unveil a new exhibition of artwork from Milingimbi titled “Gapu Murnuk” at the Embassy of Australia, which will remain on view through November. This exhibition celebrates the coming together of freshwater and saltwater. When these two meet as a result of the tide, they create “gapu murnuk,” wealth and abundance, as well as “dharruwa ngata” (lots of food including fish and crocodile eggs). The exhibition features contemporary works for sale, including larrakitj (ceremonial poles), paintings on bark and paper, fiber works and carvings. Attending the opening is by invitation only, but the Embassy is open to the public 9 am – 12 pm and 2 – 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

This visit is made possible by the Mellon Foundation, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australian Government), Milingimbi Art and Culture and the Embassy of Australia.

Note: Raymond Bulambula’s wife passed away several months after these events and she is referred to here as ‘his wife’ in accordance with cultural protocols that prohibit the name or image of a recently deceased person from being spoken, written or presented.

Tasmanian artist Julie Gough Explores Controversies Around Monuments and Memorials • Thursday August 31, 2017

Indigenous Tasmanian artist Julie Gough, whose artwork explores the absence of memorials to the histories of genocide and massacre that occurred on her native land in Tasmania, will explore this topic in Charlottesville when she visits for a residency in October. An installation of her artwork titled Hunting Ground opens at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection on September 8 with a reception from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.

For the last several years, Charlottesville has been the national hotbed of debate about the relevance of memorials to the past and their role in the future of our community. Julie Gough, a leading Indigenous Australian artist whose work is in major public and private collections in Australia, has been raising awareness about this issue in Tasmania using prints and video installation works.

For Hunting Ground, Gough did extensive research into how Tasmania went from plentiful hunting grounds for Indigenous people to a land where those same people were hunted down when it was invaded and colonized by the British in the 19th century. After researching the massacres that took place, only some of which are known and documented, Gough created her own memorials to those dark events and posted them where they occurred, re-inscribing the land with an almost forgotten history.

While these events happened more than a hundred years ago in Tasmania, Gough is interested in how, if and why they are remembered, and from whose perspective. As Charlottesville begins to heal from the recent domestic terrorist attack by white nationalists and the ongoing controversy around Confederate statues, this exhibition is particularly relevant to an American audience. In addition to providing an international parallel to recent events, the exhibition and Gough’s residency will provide a perspective from many years following such tragic histories: What purpose do memorials serve? How do we process trauma and move into the future without forgetting? How is memory preserved at the physical sites where events occurred? Who is telling the story and what motivations do they have?

Gough looks at the landscape with an archaeological lens, where histories layer on top of one another, hiding the layers beneath. She is also interested in how histories of violence and oppression toward Native American people in Charlottesville and surrounding areas have been covered by the legacies of slavery, and what can be done to uncover them.

Julie Gough will visit Charlottesville for an artist residency October 26 – November 20. She will give a gallery talk of Hunting Ground on Saturday, November 4 at 10:30 am and present her work in an artist talk on Thursday, November 16 at 5:30 pm, followed by a reception from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. She will guest lecture to various courses at UVA.

A Message from Kluge-Ruhe • Wednesday August 16, 2017

Dear friends,

Last weekend white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups invaded our University and community. While we affirm every American’s constitutional right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest, we abhor and condemn the actions of those who brought bigotry and violence to our community. We wish to express our deepest sympathies to the victims of violence and their loved ones.

We at Kluge-Ruhe value equality, inclusion and respect for one another. Our exhibitions and programs are intended to expose and counter racism in many forms, whether perpetrated in a highly visible way by individuals and groups fueled by hate, or more subtly by governments and institutions whose policies ignore history and reinforce disadvantage.

Indigenous Australians maintain that much of their history of invasion, subjugation and genocide has been covered up by settler narratives contributing to a national “amnesia.” We Americans are also guilty of willful forgetting when it comes to our history. That is why cross-cultural dialogues with Indigenous artists, whose work draws attention to this whitewashed history and its legacies of discrimination and injustice, are so relevant and beneficial to us. Many of Kluge-Ruhe’s exhibitions and programs this fall will focus on this specific issue and we invite you to participate fully in these events.

To our friends outside of Charlottesville, and especially those in Australia who are receiving very brief reports about last weekend, we deeply appreciate the concern and support you have shown over the past few days. We want to reassure you that the horrifying events of this past weekend are not commonplace in our normally peaceful and progressive community and the staff of Kluge-Ruhe, our colleagues at the University and the people of Charlottesville welcome you. We are committed to providing a safe and inclusive place to listen to, learn from and reflect on the experiences of Indigenous Australians and people of color worldwide.

Margo Smith AM, Henry F. Skerritt, Nicole Wade, Lauren D. Maupin and Fenella Belle

Staff of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection

"Ghost Nets" exhibition opens with lecture and reception • Friday August 11, 2017

On Friday, August 25, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection will hold a lecture and reception to open an exhibition titled Australia: Defending the Ocean at the Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library.

The exhibition, which has been installed in the Library’s reading room, highlights the ecological disaster created by abandoned and discarded fishing nets off the coast of northeastern Australia. These “ghost nets” are made of strong plastic designed to withstand the harsh ocean environment. A by-product of the commercial fishing industry, ghost nets drift on the ocean currents, trapping a rich array of marine life including such endangered species as sea turtles, sharks, rays and sawfish among many others. Eventually they drift to the ocean floor, suffocating marine animals and coral reefs and creating long term damage to the marine environment. It is estimated that over 640,000 tons of fishing equipment is left in the oceans each year.

Indigenous Australians were among the first to notice the devastating effects of ghost nets. For thousands of years, Indigenous people have retained and passed down extensive knowledge of marine life, a result of their longstanding stewardship of the environment in which they live. In reaction to the increasing threat posed by debris in the ocean, Aboriginal artists from Pormpuraaw, Queensland, have begun harvesting ghost nets and turning them into delightful sculptures of marine life. Their artworks raise awareness about the environmental threat of litter in the ocean.

Also included in the exhibition are three prints and an aluminum sculpture of a stingray by Brian Robinson (Maluyliga, Wuthathi, Malaysia Dayak). The sculpture, Ocean Guardian, represents the creation story of the Great Barrier Reef and is covered in mineral, the distinctive graphic patterns of Torres Strait art. In his linocut prints, Robinson draws on his Torres Strait Islander heritage and traditional art historical and pop culture imagery.

On Friday, August 25 at 4 pm professor Stephen Macko from UVA’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Kluge-Ruhe director Margo Smith will discuss the exhibition from two different perspectives. The lecture will be followed by a Final Fridays reception with refreshments concluding at 7 pm. Brown Library is located in Clark Hall, 291 McCormick Road, on UVA’s central Grounds.

Australia: Defending the Ocean was first exhibited at the United Nations during The Ocean Conference in June 2017. Kluge-Ruhe wishes to thank the artists of Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Center and the exhibition organizers Stéphane Jacob of Arts d’Australie, Paris, Suzanne O’Connell of Suzanne O’Connell Gallery, Brisbane, and John Stafford of Onespace Gallery, Brisbane, who represents Brian Robinson.

Student Curators Bring Diverse Perspectives to Aboriginal Art in New Exhibition • Thursday June 29, 2017

On July 20th from 5 – 9 pm, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA will open a major new exhibition curated by five undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds that are under-represented in the curatorial profession. The students’ exhibition, titled Songs of a Secret Country, features twenty-three artworks newly donated to Kluge-Ruhe by Stephen and Agatha Luczo.

This summer, Kluge-Ruhe is training the next generation of curators while addressing the pressing lack of diversity in American museums, as part of UVA’s broader Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative. Five undergraduate students—India Ferguson, Imani Williford, Rosalba Ponce, Jake Martin, and Caitlin Keeve—have traveled to Charlottesville from their homes in California, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Florida to learn every aspect of designing an exhibition, from writing wall labels down to choosing wall colors.

India Ferguson is a rising senior from Florida International University who aims to attend a graduate program in curatorial studies. “I’m excited to celebrate the work of the Australian Indigenous artists in Charlottesville. It has been a great experience for our student curatorial group to create an exhibition that challenges us to immerse ourselves in different belief systems while reflecting upon our own identities.”

Songs of a Secret Country is the first display of a major new gift of twenty-three artworks to the Kluge-Ruhe Collection from California philanthropists Stephen and Agatha Luczo. Stephen is Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Seagate Technology, a data storage solutions company and one of the world’s largest producers of computer hard drives. A model and former dancer, Agatha is the author of the children’s book Carla and Leo’s World of Dance. The Luczos began collecting contemporary Aboriginal art in 2006 and quickly amassed one of the largest collections in the USA. According to Blair Hartzell, curator of the Luczo Family Collection, “It is the brilliant level of engagement—with students, with the local community, and with artists from both America and Australia, that makes the Kluge-Ruhe the ideal home for this gift.”

The donation features abstract, large-scale contemporary masterpieces from desert regions not heavily represented in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. Curator Henry Skerritt explains, “The Stephen and Agatha Luczo Gift shows the continuing innovation and diversity of Aboriginal Australian art. Featuring some of the most important and acclaimed contemporary painters of the last decade—such as Makinti Napanangka and Harry Tjutjuna—it allows us to show the living nature of Aboriginal art and culture as it moves into the 21st century.” Director Margo Smith adds, “Kluge-Ruhe and the University of Virginia are tremendously grateful to the Luczos for the opportunity to use this major donation of artworks to advance our Mellon initiatives. Through this program Kluge-Ruhe is becoming the preeminent center for the study of Indigenous Australian art in the United States.”

Songs of a Secret Country: The Stephen and Agatha Luczo Gift and the accompanying catalogue will be launched on Thursday, July 20 at Kluge-Ruhe’s Night at the Museum event, with each student presenting a short “flat-chat” tour of key works in the exhibition. This event will also feature live original music by local band Adar, food trucks, beer from Blue Mountain Brewery and wine from Glass House Winery. Admission is $5 for non-members and free for museum members. It is family-friendly and no reservations are needed. For more information about the museum and this event, visit or call 434-244-0234.

Kluge-Ruhe ReLaunches ‘Night at the Museum’ • Wednesday May 24, 2017

*On June 15, 2017, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA will begin its fifth annual summer series called Night at the Museum. It’s an opportunity for locals and tourists alike to explore its newest exhibitions, eat from the best of Charlottesville’s mobile food establishments, sip on the area’s beers, wines and ciders, and listen to some of our best local musical talent, all outdoors on its beautiful Pantops location overlooking Charlottesville.

“Many locals have heard about Kluge-Ruhe, but just haven’t found the time to visit yet. This event is so accessible: those who are coming for the first time will discover a diverse and fascinating culture as an added perk to what they would probably already be doing at the start of a summer weekend, which is to experience the best this town has to offer in food, libations and music,” said Education and Program Coordinator Lauren Maupin.

On June 15, the event will feature a new exhibition of paintings on board and canvas by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, beer from Devil’s Backbone Brewery, and several food truck options. The Jon Spear Band will deliver their award-winning original blues tunes.

July 20 will boast the talent of Adar, a five-piece band that will showcase their deep well of originals and their new takes of covers that transcend genres from jazz, blues, soul, rock and more. Beer from Blue Mountain Brewery, wine from Glass House Winery, and eats from The Pie Guy, Tacos Gomez, and Got Dumplings will be served. The museum will unveil a new exhibition in its permanent collection galleries of artwork recently donated to the museum.

Closing out the series on August 17, Hardywood Park beer and food from Mouth Wide Open, the Pie Guy and others will be served. Highlighting this event is Chamomile and Whiskey, who have played at festivals such as FloydFest and shared the stage with acts like Old Crow Medicine Show and the Infamous Stringdusters. Their eclectic sound that blends Americana and southern rock with Irish, Gypsy and Old-Time influences will celebrate the end of summer.

Each event will have a kid’s zone with various activities for children of all ages. The exhibition The Mysteries That Remain, which is the first museum survey of internationally acclaimed artist Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, will be on view throughout the summer. Flat-chat tours, brief ten minute tours that focus on one object from the permanent collection, will be a chance to dive a little deeper.
The event is free for members of the museum or $5 for non-members. A special membership rate of $25 per household is available at the door.

Contact Lauren Maupin at or 434-244-0234 with questions.

Kluge-Ruhe Presents Madayin: Seven Decades of Bark Painting from Yirrkala • Thursday April 27, 2017

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is pleased to present its newest large-scale project: Madayin. Madayin will be the first major survey of Aboriginal bark paintings ever staged outside of Australia. It presents seven decades of one of Australia’s most unique contributions to global contemporary art.

For millennia, Yolngu people around Yirrkala in northern Australia have painted their sacred clan designs on their bodies and ceremonial objects. These designs—called miny’tji—are not merely decorative: they are the sacred patterns of the ancestral land itself. Yolngu describe them as madayin: a term that encompasses both the sacred and the beautiful. With the arrival of Europeans in the mid-twentieth century, Yolngu people turned to the existing medium of painting on eucalyptus bark with ochres to express the power and beauty of their culture. The result was an outpouring of creativity that continues to this day as artists find new and innovative ways to transform their ancient clan designs into compelling contemporary statements.

Drawn from the world-class holdings of Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Madayin will survey seven decades of artistic production at Yirrkala, from 1948 to the present, including 30 new works commissioned especially for the exhibition through the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center at Yirrkala. The curatorial team includes both Yolngu and non-Indigenous curators. The paintings on bark will be accompanied by an extensive media component including video, audio recordings and archival photographs, developed by the Aboriginal media unit at Yirrkala, the Mulka Project.

Madayin offers a rare opportunity for American audiences to experience the grace and majesty of one of the world’s richest artistic traditions. The exhibition shows bark painting to be a dynamic tradition, brought forward by the artists of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center at Yirrkala. Ancient mark making traditions are carried into the present through the passion and artistry of these leading artists. Here in a remote corner of Australia has emerged one of the most powerful painting movements of our time.

Want to be involved? Join us in commissioning a bark painting for this historic travelling exhibition. Contact for more details.

New Exhibition: 'Body Ornaments' by Janet Fieldhouse • Thursday January 12, 2017

Janet Fieldhouse, Marriage Pendant, 2016.
On January 27, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA will open a new exhibition, Body Ornaments, by Indigenous Australian ceramic artist Janet Fieldhouse.

This exhibition sits at the intersection between contemporary ceramic practice and the cultural traditions of the Torres Strait Islands that lie between Australia’s northern coast and Papua New Guinea. Fieldhouse’s works encompass a surprising array of materials and techniques, from textured hand-built raku forms to fragile “woven” porcelain arm bands that lean on and support each other. Two mixed-media pendants combine porcelain with the feathers of the cassowary, a relative of the ostrich and emu. Light boxes, in which Fieldhouse fused extremely thin layers of porcelain together, create glowing layered shadows in the shapes of traditional combs and other cultural objects of the Torres Strait.

Fieldhouse has undertaken research to explore the cultural traditions of her people, specifically those of women, and sees her art as a way to preserve them for future generations. In her porcelain arm bands, she uses the traditional weaving technique used in the creation of mats, baskets and armbands that are woven with pandanus palm, a practice that continues today.

Janet Fieldhouse working.
The raku forms and the light boxes explore the artist’s desire to preserve designs from female rituals of scarification, where a woman’s skin is cut or burned to produce permanent markings in scar tissue. Although this ritual is no longer practiced today, the designs remain culturally significant, and it is these two-dimensional patterns that Fieldhouse transforms into her clay sculptures. Fieldhouse explains that her work intends “to bring back what is unseen, as a tribute to the women and life of the Torres Strait Islands, but also so the next generation will know that scarification was a strong part of our heritage.”

While ceramic art is not a tradition in the Torres Strait, art historian Sally Butler explains that “contemporary artists are activating their cultural heritage through these media, molding cultural memory in ways that make it alive, relevant, and use for today.”

Janet Fieldhouse currently lives in Cairns and works as an Art and Culture Teacher at the North Queensland TAFE. She studied ceramics at the Cairns Technical and Further Education College (TAFE) before continuing her studies at the Australian National University in Canberra. She has participated in twenty-seven group exhibitions since 2000, in addition to four solo exhibitions: Unseen (2005), Woven (2009), Journey (2011) and Mark and Memory (2014). Fieldhouse has twice been awarded First Prize in the National Indigenous Ceramic Awards (2007, 2012). Her work is held in numerous public collections of Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia.

Janet Fieldhouse, Memory Series 2, 2014.
From March 10 to April 9, 2017, Fieldhouse will visit Charlottesville as an artist-in-residence at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. While here, she will develop ideas for new bodies of work, teach sculpture classes at UVA, give tours of the exhibition and present an artist talk at the museum, and provide a workshop at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

Both the exhibition and residency are presented in partnership with Australia Council for the Arts and Vivien Anderson Gallery in Melbourne. The exhibition will be on view from January 27 – May 21, 2017.

Reflecting on 2016 at Kluge-Ruhe • Friday December 16, 2016

It’s been a great year at Kluge-Ruhe! Check out all of our accomplishments by clicking here to view our Reflections on 2016 newsletter.

Kluge-Ruhe Collection Appoints New Curator • Wednesday July 27, 2016

Curator Henry F. Skerritt
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Henry F. Skerritt to its new position, Curator of the Indigenous Arts of Australia.

Skerritt is an art historian, and curator hailing from Perth in Western Australia. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh under Professor Terry Smith. His dissertation is titled “When Time’s Arrows Collide: Historical Critique in Indigenous Contemporary Art.” Skerritt holds Master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Melbourne, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Australia. Most recently, he curated the exhibition Yimardoowarra: Artist of the River which opened at the Embassy of Australia in Washington D.C. in January, and is currently on view at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection through August 21.

Henry Skerritt edited the books Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia (2016) and No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Painting (2015), both published by Prestel Publishing and the Nevada Museum of Art, and was a consulting curator on the touring exhibitions of the same names. Skerritt has written extensively on Aboriginal art and culture, including contributions to the publications Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art in Australia (Harvard Art Museums, 2016); Ngarra: The Texta Drawings (Mossenson Art Foundation, 2015); Double Desire: Transculturation and Indigenous Contemporary Art (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014); Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art (Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2012); and Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture (Object: Australian Centre for Contemporary Craft and Design, 2009). Skerritt’s writings have also appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The Journal of Curatorial Studies, Pacific Arts, Artlink, Art Monthly Australia, Art Guide Australia, Meanjin, and Artist Profile.

This new position is part of a major collaboration between the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, the Fralin Museum of Art and the College of Arts and Sciences funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As Curator of Indigenous Arts of Australia, Skerritt will curate exhibitions of Aboriginal art at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, lead research and teaching initiatives at UVA using the collection’s holdings, and develop a new residency program for visiting Australian scholars, artists and curators.
“Henry’s areas of curatorial expertise and scholarly interest align perfectly with the strengths of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. The new teaching and research initiatives that he is spearheading will distinguish UVA as a center of excellence for the study of Indigenous art,” said Dr. Margo Smith AM, who has been Director and Curator of the museum since it opened in 1999. Smith will continue as Director of the museum.

Henry Skerritt will move to Charlottesville in July from Pittsburgh with his wife, Lydia Lange, and his children, Gabriel and Audrey. He will be present at the museum’s Night at the Museum event on August 18 from 5 – 9 pm to meet museum members and visitors.

Kluge-Ruhe Collection Opens Yarning History Exhibition • Wednesday July 6, 2016

On Saturday, July 9th at 10 am, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA opens an outdoor exhibition honoring significant moments in Indigenous Australian art history.

The museum has partnered with The Needle Lady and more than 70 knitters in the Charlottesville area and beyond to create colorful swatches of knitted work, which are installed on nine trees in its picturesque location on Pantops. The Yarning History exhibition is the Kluge-Ruhe Collection’s celebration of NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week. Every July, NAIDOC Week commemorates the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Covering objects such as trees, benches or even vehicles with yarn as a form of playful and temporary “graffiti” is called “yarn bombing.” The yarn bombing movement began in various locations across the United States about ten years ago, and has since spread worldwide. This is the first yarn bombing project in the world to celebrate NAIDOC week.

The title of the exhibition, Yarning History, is a pun: “yarning” is Australian slang for telling a story, but in this case it also describes the materials that make up the exhibition. Five of the nine trees include swatches with important dates following a chronological timeline of Aboriginal art history. For example, the first tree features the date “40,000 BCE,” marking the earliest rock art made by Indigenous people in Australia.

Additionally, two large swatches depict the two Indigenous Australian flags: the Aboriginal flag designed by Harold Thomas in 1971, and the Torres Strait Islander flag, designed by Bernard Namok in 1992. The other trees in the exhibition are covered with swatches bearing the colors of both flags.

On July 9th the museum will celebrate NAIDOC Week with a brief flag raising ceremony at 10 am. Afterward, a tour of the Yarning History will be led by Kluge-Ruhe Director, and knitter, Margo Smith. Following the tour, refreshments of damper (Aboriginal bush bread) and billy tea will be served.

Visitors may see Yarning History for the rest of the summer during our regular hours. A handout with a map is available as a guide.

Support for this exhibition was provided by the Embassy of Australia. Special thanks to Mimi Hyde and Susan Bashline from The Needle Lady, Caitlin Kingston, and Berroco, Inc.

Kluge-Ruhe to Exhibit Paintings by Loongkoonan • Wednesday April 13, 2016

On May 13, 2016 the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA will open its newest exhibition titled Yimardoowarra: Artist of the River, a career survey of the Aboriginal Australian elder Loongkoonan. At 105 years of age, Loongkoonan is one of Australia’s oldest living contemporary artists. Her work has been exhibited throughout Australia, including the recent Adelaide Biennial, but this exhibition, which was first on view at the Embassy of Australia in Washington D.C., represents her first major international exhibition.

The paintings by Loongkoonan are intricate depictions of her homeland in remote Western Australia. Loongkoonan is an important matriarch of the Nyikina people and one of the last speakers of their critically endangered language. Her paintings are important chronicles of the unique Aboriginal Australian understanding of place. Yimardoowarra: Artist of the River charts the extraordinarily dense late-life career of an Indigenous woman who has brought a century of memory, tradition, and spirituality to her art practice.

Loongkoonan was born around 1910 at Mount Anderson Station near the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. In 2004, at age 95, she began painting at Manambarra Aboriginal Artists, an arts workshop in Derby. Her shimmering depictions of bush foods and land around the Fitzroy River received immediate acclaim, being exhibited in every state and territory of Australia. In 2006 Loongkoonan was awarded first prize in the Redlands Art Award, and in 2007 she received the Indigenous Award at the Drawing Together Art Awards at the National Archives of Australia. Her works have inspired a new generation of Nyikina artists, and are held in the collections of Australian Parliament House, Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia, Macquarie University and the Department of Indigenous Affairs in Canberra.

This exhibition was curated by Henry F. Skerritt, a doctoral candidate in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He has written extensively on Aboriginal art and culture, and has curated or consulted on numerous exhibitions in the U.S. and Australia, including the exhibition No Boundaries, which is currently on view at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. He will talk about the exhibition at the opening reception, which will take place on Friday, May 13 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. He will also give a tour on Saturday, May 14 at 10:30 am. The exhibition will be on view through August 21, 2016 at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection.

UVa Now Accepting Applications for Curatorial Position • Friday March 11, 2016

The University of Virginia is now accepting online applications for the position of Curator of the Indigenous Arts of Australia at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection. This is a new position funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost at UVa. The grant provides funding for the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and The Fralin Museum of Art at UVA to hire two curators for the University’s extensive collections of Indigenous Australian and Native American/Pre-Columbian art and to support a new residency program for visiting scholars, artists and curators. Read more about the Mellon grant here.

The Curator of Indigenous Arts of Australia will combine scholarly research and teaching with curatorial practice to advance knowledge of Australia’s Indigenous people and their art and culture. For more information about this position or to apply please visit Jobs@ and search for Posting #0618363.

Performance Brings Together U.Va. Students, Indigenous Artists, and Couture Fashions • Wednesday February 17, 2016

On Saturday, March 19th, 2016 the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia will present an evening fashion performance titled “Culture Couture” at the Jefferson Theater. This project, sponsored by the U.Va. Arts Council, the Embassy of Australia, the U.Va. Parents Committee, the U.Va. Department of Drama, and the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, will introduce Charlottesville to Indigenous Australian fashion and the remarkable creativity of U.Va. students.

Lauren Maupin, Education and Program Coordinator at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, was first exposed to Indigenous fashion during a trip to Australia in the summer of 2014. She attended a fashion performance at Cairns Indigenous Art Fair that showcased the colorful, contemporary, and unique textiles and designs being produced by Indigenous Australian artists. “I was overwhelmed and impressed by the ease with which the artists transferred their designs to the new medium of fabric and the context of a runway. Given that U.Va. has no fashion program, I felt Kluge-Ruhe could fill a need for students by bringing the two together.”

To realize this goal, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection created a fashion design contest in January 2015, prompting students to submit original sketches for garments which would honor Indigenous hand-printed textiles as artworks themselves. Marcy Linton in the Department of Drama agreed to offer an advanced course in Costume Technology (DRAM4598) in which students would fabricate the winning designs. After receiving numerous sketched designs, Maupin and Linton selected ten and paired them with fabric from four different communities in northern Australia: Babbarra Women’s Corporation, Injalak Arts and Crafts, Erub Erwer Meta, and Merrepen Arts. Alison Copley, an Australian arts and fashion professional, consulted on the project.

Patterns were made by Linton and Dorothy Smith, Costume Shop Supervisor in the Department of Drama, and local seamstress Beth Neville Evans. Seven students from various disciplines enrolled in Linton’s course and successfully constructed their garments during the Fall 2015 semester. Part of the course involved learning about Indigenous Australian art and culture through visits to the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and by skyping with textile artists in one of the communities where the fabric was made.

Olivia Tritschler, who designed and fabricated a pant suit for Culture Couture, said: “As a Global Developmental Studies major, this project has enabled me to pursue my interest in fashion and cultivate an appreciation for cultures that are different from my own. It intrigued me to learn more about the designs of my fabric and how some of them were so important to the artists that they couldn’t be shared. I am honored that I get to be a part of bringing these unique and contemporary cultural traditions to a wider audience in an innovative and respectful way.”

In addition to showing the student designs, the fashion performance will also feature garments and accessories made by leading Indigenous designers specifically for Culture Couture. The performance will feature eight to ten looks by Nicole Monks (Wajarri Yamatji), a Sydney based designer of Aboriginal, Dutch and English heritage who founded the company ‘blackandwhite creative’ to weave Aboriginal philosophies of sustainability, innovation and collaboration into art, interior design, and fashion.

The show will also feature a collaborative portfolio by Lucy Simpson (Yuwaalaraay), a textile designer, and Julie Shaw (Yuwaalaraay), a fashion designer. Simpson is Artistic Director and Principal Designer of the textile label Gaawaa Miyay, which she founded in 2009. Shaw recently launched her label Mayrah, which combines inspiration from her home country with a luxe fashion aesthetic.

Finally, the show will also include the famous ‘weaves,’ or woven necklaces of Grace Lillian Lee. She also runs her own label, Jetty Love, which includes couture garments that highlight the weaves, and are inspired by the landscapes of north Queensland, the Torres Strait Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.

Music trio Biliirr, featuring Lucy Simpson and her sisters Nardi Simpson and Jilda Andrews (Yuwaalaraay), will give their first American performance as part of the evening’s celebration of Indigenous creativity. Singer-songwriter Nardi Simpson performed at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in 2001 as a member of The Stiff Gins. Jilda Andrews is a museum practitioner at National Museum Australia and a Ph.D. candidate at Australian National University. Performing as Biliirr (“bill-ear” translated as black cockatoo) they offer audiences a gift of country through song and story.

Tickets for Culture Couture go on sale on Monday, February 1st through the U.Va. Box Office at $12 per regular admission ticket. Kluge-Ruhe members receive a discounted ticket of $10 and tickets are free for U.Va. Students with Arts$.

Film Screening and Discussion with Sterlin Harjo • Thursday January 21, 2016

What is America’s first music? Tracing a heartfelt journey, award-winning filmmaker Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek) interweaves the tale of a mysterious death in 1962 with the rich history of the powerful hymns that have united the Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole communities in times of worship, joy, tragedy, and hope. By investigating the stories of these songs, this illuminating film explores a Muscogee singing tradition rooted in Scottish mission hymns and African slave spirituals.

See the trailer

The film will be screened on Saturday, January 30 at 1 pm at Newcomb Hall Theater. A panel discussion with Sterlin Harjo and reception will follow. It is free and open to the public.

This event has been sponsored by the U.Va. Office of Diversity and Equity, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, the U.Va. Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, U.Va. Department of Anthropology, McIntire Department of Music, and the Native American Student Union as part of the MLK Community Celebration.

Kluge-Ruhe brings Indigenous Australian Dancers to Charlottesville • Wednesday January 20, 2016

Three dancers who are graduates of Australia’s leading Indigenous dance college will visit Charlottesville in early February as guests of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection and the University of Virginia’s Dance Program. Dancers Taree Sansbury, Thomas E. S. Kelly, and Hans Ahwang, and Carole Johnson, Artistic Director Emeritus and founder of NAISDA Dance College, are in the United States for six weeks as part of an international exchange program. While in Charlottesville, they will work with U.Va. students in ‘Modern Dance II’ and ‘Dance and Culture’ and showcase contemporary Indigenous dance for the public during First Fridays at McGuffey Art Center on February 5 at 6:00 and 7:00 pm in Studio 11. They will also offer a workshop on Saturday, February 6th from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm for community members ages 12 and up. Registration is required and there is a $10 fee for the workshop. Please register here.

Carole Johnson is an American-born graduate of Julliard and performed as a soloist with Eleo Pomare Dance Company in New York. She established NYC’s Dancemobile and founded dance magazine FEET. Johnson went to Australia with Pomare Company in 1972 and remained there to establish contemporary Indigenous dance, which fuses contemporary dance with Aboriginal traditional dance. She founded NAISDA (National Aboriginal/Islander Skills Development Association) Dance College and Bangarra Dance Theatre. Johnson was installed in the Australian Dance Hall of Fame in 1999 and was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003 in recognition of service to Australian society and the Indigenous community through dance.

Thomas ES Kelly (Wiradjuri and Bundjalung) Graduating from NAISDA Dance College in 2012, Kelly has performed in Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. Most recently he performed in Vicki Van Hout’s “Long Grass” at the 2015 Sydney Festival at the Seymour Centre and the 2015 Dance Massive Festival in Melbourne.

Taree Sansbury (Kaurna, Narungga and Ngarrindjeri) An emerging freelance artist and NAISDA Dance College Graduate, Sansbury worked most recently with Martin Del Amo during the first development of his new work, Champions, followed by a season performing in Victoria Hunt’s latest work, Tangi Wai, for Liveworks Festival at Carriageworks in late October 2015.

Hans Ahwang (Moa Island, Torres Strait) A 2014 NAISDA College graduate, Hans works as an independent artist and has performed across Australia, in Fiji and Taiwan. His film and television credits include Wonderland, Redfern Now and Old School.

This program has been supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Arts NSW, McGuffey Art Center, NAISDA Dance College and the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts.

Indigenous Dance Showcase
Friday, February 5, 2016, 6:00 and 7:00 pm, Studio 11
McGuffey Art Center
201 Second Street NW
Charlottesville, VA 22902

Dance Workshop for ages 12+
Saturday, February 6, 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Registration required

Djambawa Marawili to Visit Kluge-Ruhe as Fourth Artist in Residence • Tuesday October 13, 2015

From October 24 – November 6, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of U.Va. will host renowned artist and community leader Djambawa Marawili AM (Yolngu), a painter, sculptor and printmaker from Yirrkala in Arnhem Land, Australia. His residency, sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will provide a variety of exciting, interdisciplinary opportunities to meet the artist and learn about Yolngu art, law and culture.

Djambawa Marawili AM is an acclaimed artist and principal ceremonial leader of the Madarrpa clan of the Yolngu people. In 1996 he won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for the Best Bark Painting for a painting that is in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. A leader in the interface between non-Aboriginal and Yolngu people, Marawili led a successful campaign resulting in federal recognition of Yolngu sea rights in 2008. He was chosen by the Australian Prime Minister as a member of the National Indigenous Advisory Panel in 2013 and was named a Member of the Order of Australia.

Marawili uses art as a tool in his practice as a cultural leader, and many of his artworks express the deep connection of Yolngu people to water and sea. He says “I want people to understand it’s not just a colorful or beautiful show of paintings but it has a meaning and is a document of my country.”

Director of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection Margo Smith said, “Djambawa’s authority, as a Yolngu leader, adds tremendous significance to his artwork, which is both based on traditional knowledge and innovative in its design. Alongside other artists of his generation, Djambawa has brought bark painting to the contemporary art world and raised the international profile of Indigenous Australian art.”

Marawili’s residency provides a unique opportunity for U.Va. students and the Charlottesville community to learn from an Indigenous Australian leader and artist. He will briefly discuss his work at a reception on Thursday, October 29th from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, using the works on view in his exhibition at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection titled where the water rests, where it moves. Djambawa will sing the traditional song that accompanies the paintings in the exhibition, and two of his hollow log sculptures will also be unveiled as additions to the exhibition.

On Saturday, October 31 Marawili will give a full tour of the exhibition of his works at 10:30 am. He will also give a public artist talk in the Environmental Sciences department at U.Va. on Tuesday, November 3 at 4:00 pm, in which he will discuss his art practice and its relationship to environmental knowledge and Indigenous rights to land and sea.

Aside from these public opportunities, students at the Ocean Law Center of U.Va. will have lunch with Marawili to discuss the landmark sea rights claim in Arnhem Land. Students in U.Va.’s Studio Art Department will also have the opportunity to learn from him as a printmaker.

Djambawa Marawili will be travelling to Virginia with Kade McDonald, one of two art center managers at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, an Indigenous community-controlled art center in northeast Arnhem Land. On Friday, October 30 at 5:00 pm in Brooks Hall Commons, Kluge-Ruhe will screen two short films made by budding Indigenous filmmakers in Yirrkala under the auspices of the Mulka Project, which uses film to sustain and protect Yolngu cultural knowledge in northeast Arnhem Land under the leadership of community members. Kade and Djambawa will be present to discuss the context and importance of the films and answer questions.

The two main shorts will be Galka, a film about the Yolngu sorcerer spirit, and Homeland Hustle, a film about dancing and hip hop in remote Arnhem Land.
Djambawa Marawili AM is the fourth resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection under its prestigious grant from Australia Council for the Arts. The exhibition and residency has been presented in partnership with the following sponsors: Embassy of Australia, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Maria T. Kluge, U.Va. McIntire Department of Art and U.Va. Oceans Law Center.

Indigenous Writers from Australia and North America in Charlottesville • Wednesday August 19, 2015

Six Indigenous Australian writers and two Indigenous American writers will read from and discuss their work in an event titled First People: Indigenous Writers from Australia and North America on Tuesday, September 8 at 6:00 pm at the Harrison Institute Auditorium.

Each writer will spend seven minutes reading from a work of their choice, and then Karenne Wood (Monacan) will lead a discussion about Indigenous identity and writing, followed by Q & A and a reception with refreshments.

The program will inspire writers at U.Va. and in the community by introducing them to emerging and established Indigenous authors, while also creating a visible platform for Indigenous voices to be shared and heard in our community, where these voices are often considered invisible and are sometimes intentionally silenced.

“As always, we are excited to provide the opportunity for public dialogue about the politics of Indigenous identities and how these inform the study of human culture. Usually visual art is the platform for this conversation at Kluge-Ruhe, but we are committed to supporting all kinds of Indigenous creativity, and are grateful for the chance to showcase the compelling and relevant works of these writers ,” said Education and Program Coordinator Lauren Maupin.

Indigenous Australian writers Bruce Pascoe, Jared Thomas, Dub Leffler, Jeanine Leane, Ellen Van Neervan, and Cathy Craigie are members of the First Nations Australian Writers Network, an organization that acts as an advocacy and resources service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers. Already in the United States for the 2015 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection invited them to Charlottesville to participate in the panel reading and discussion.

Kluge-Ruhe then reached out to the Mary and David Harrison Institute as a partnering host for this program, as well as Karenne Wood (Monacan) of the Virginia Indian Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Wood, being a published poet herself, agreed to participate and moderate the panel. Poet Deborah Miranda (Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen), who has won numerous writing awards and teaches at Washington and Lee, will also participate.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to hear from Indigenous writers on both sides of the globe, to compare our historical and contemporary experiences, and to talk about how we use writing to challenge people’s perceptions,” said Karenne Wood.

Since the Indigenous writers from Australia will be in town for several days, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection is also arranging for these writers to visit poetry writing and fiction writing courses taught by U.Va. faculty in the Creative Writing Program of the English Department. One of the writers is a children’s book author and illustrator, and he will be offering a book illustration workshop in an elementary school classroom in the City of Charlottesville.

This program is sponsored by the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va., the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the First Nations Australian Writers Network, and the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature and Culture.

More information about each writer is below.

Karenne Wood is an enrolled member of the Monacan Indian Nation and serves on the Monacan Tribal Council. She is currently a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Virginia, working to reclaim indigenous languages and revitalize cultural practices. She recently edited The Virginia Indian Heritage Trail, published by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, led the “Beyond Jamestown” Teachers’ Institute, and curated the “Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Past and Present” exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. She was previously the Repatriation Director for the Association on American Indian Affairs, coordinating the return of sacred objects to Native communities. She has also worked at the National Museum of the American Indian as a researcher, and she directed a tribal history project with the Monacan Nation for six years. Wood held a gubernatorial appointment as Chair of the Virginia Council on Indians for four years, and she has served on the National Congress of American Indians’ Repatriation Commission.

Bruce Pascoe is of Bunurong, Yuin, Tasmanian heritage. His books include Shark, Ruby-eyed Coucal, Ocean, Earth and Nightjar. His novel, Bloke, was published by Penguin in 2009. The children’s novel, The Chainsaw File, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011. Fog a Dox was published in 2012 by Magabala and won the Prime Minister’s Award for Young Adult Literature in 2013. Dark Emu was published by Magabala in 2014 and was shortlisted in the Western Australia and Queensland Literary Awards. In 2014 he attended the Australian New Zealand Literary Festival in London and in 2015 will visit festivals in Scotland, Mongolia and the USA.

Jared Thomas is a Nukunu man of the Southern Flinders Ranges and an author of young adult fiction. His debut novel Sweet Guy was short listed for three major Australian literature awards and his children’s novel Dallas Davis, the Scientist and the City Kids is published in the Oxford University Press Yarning Strong series. Calypso Summer won the 2013 State Library of Queensland black&write! Fellowship and was included in iTunes best books of April 2014. Leading Indigenous publisher Magabala Books will release Songs that Sound like Blood in 2015.

Dub Leffler is descended from the Bigambul people who survived the fourteen year Bigambul war of the 1840s in Australia. He is an accomplished author and illustrator with over eighteen feature titles to his name and has collaborated with such luminaries as Colin Thompson, Shaun Tan and Banksy. He is Australia’s premiere Indigenous illustrator of children’s literature. Dub’s book, Once There Was a Boy, which he both wrote and illustrated, was one of the biggest children’s books of 2011 in Australia.

Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri woman from southwest New South Wales with a Ph.D. in Literature and Aboriginal representation. She currently holds a post-doctoral fellowship at the Australian National University. In 2010, Jeanine’s first volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: AD 1887-1961 won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry from the Australian Poets’ Union and her manuscript, Purple Threads won the David Unaipon Award at the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. Jeanine is the recipient of an Australian Research Council Discovery grant (2011) for her project Reading the Nation: A critical study of Aboriginal/Settler representation in the contemporary Australian Literary Landscape and a Discovery Indigenous Award (2013) for her new project The David Unaipon Award: Shaping the literary and cultural history of Aboriginal writing in Australia.

Ellen Van Neervan is a Yugambeh woman from South-East Queensland, Australia. She is the author of the award-winning Heat and Light (UQP, 2014). Divided into three sections, it is inspired by the intersection of familial history, location and identity. Ellen has been awarded a Queensland Writers Fellowship to pursue her next project in 2015, a novel about Aboriginal relationships with mega fauna. She lives in Brisbane where she works as the senior editor of the black&write! project at the State Library of Queensland, which aims to support and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and editors.

Cathy Craigie is a Gamilaroi and Anaiwon woman from northern New South Wales. She has worked in Aboriginal Affairs for over thirty years. She was one of the original founders of Koori Radio/Gadigal Information Service and has worked in senior positions with the Australia Council and the New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Cathy has held a variety of key positions in other Aboriginal arts, health and housing organizations at national and international levels. She is also an aspiring writer and has written several plays and stories. Cathy was Festival Curator, Guwanyi (to tell) the National Aboriginal Writers’ Festival held at the New South Wales Writers Centre.

Deborah Miranda is a Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen woman of California. She was born in Los Angeles to an Esselen/Chumash father and a mother of French ancestry. She grew up in Washington State, earning a BS in teaching moderate special-needs children from Wheelock College in 1983 and an MA and PhD in English from the University of Washington. Miranda is a poet and her collections of poetry include Indian Cartography: Poems (1999), winner of the Diane Decorah Memorial First Book Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas; and The Zen of La Llorona (2005), nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Miranda also received the 2000 Writer of the Year Award for Poetry from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Her mixed-genre collection Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (2013) won a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher’s Association and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan Award.

Kluge-Ruhe in Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Competition • Saturday August 8, 2015

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has nominated a bark painting as one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts through a program sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM). This painting, titled Ngalkunburriyaymi and Ngalyod, was made circa 1926 by Namerredje Guymala in Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory.

In this painting, Guymala depicts the ancestral Rainbow Serpent, who takes three forms: Yingarna (the mother of all ancestral beings), Ngalyod (her son), and Ngalkunburriyaymi (Nglayod’s sister). Guymala portrays Ngalyod as a composite being with a crocodile head, a snake body, a fish tail, an emu breast plate, and kangaroo ears. Ngalyod protects sacred places by encircling and swallowing other beings. Guymala likewise represents Ngalyod surrounding Ngalkunburriyaymi, protecting her.

Wally Caruana, former curator at the National Gallery of Australia, described Guymala as “a superb draughtsman with a recognizably individual ‘hand.’” He is known for his use of the artistic style – kabimbebme or “color coming out.” The bold red, black, yellow, pink and white stripes emphasize kabimbebme making Ngalyod appear to slither out from the bark. By preserving this work, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection hopes to continue to raise awareness of the complexity and sophistication of Aboriginal art. Yet, until we can prevent color coming off, we cannot display Guymala’s mastery of color coming out.

Collections Manager Nicole Wade stated, “While this particular work is structurally stable, it has extensive areas of paint loss, and other areas of actively lifting, tenting, and flaking paint. Endangered areas can be consolidated and stabilized by a conservator, returning the work to an exhibitable condition.”

The Top 10 program, which runs from August 1 – 23, raises awareness about the conservation needs of museum collections throughout Virginia and Washington D.C. It also provides an opportunity for the public to participate by voting for a favorite artifact online at

Although the Top 10 honorees do not receive a monetary reward, museums can use the designation to draw attention to their conservation needs. A bark painting from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection was named to the Top 10 in 2011, and became the focus of a fundraising campaign. Voters can make donations on the Top 10 site or on Kluge-Ruhe’s website to benefit conservation at the museum of their choice.

“We hope everyone in Charlottesville will support our nomination and vote for our bark painting,” says Kluge-Ruhe Director Margo Smith. Need quote here
Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of collections and conservation experts, and Top 10 honorees, as well as a “People’s Choice” honoree, will be announced September 15th. Public votes will be considered by the panel as they make their final selections.

“Each year that we do this program, I am amazed by the diversity and importance of the artifacts in the care of Virginia’s museums. Each year, we have success raising awareness for endangered artifacts, and collecting institutions benefit from the Top 10 by garnering support for their conservation efforts. I am confident that this year will be no different,” says Jennifer Thomas, VAM’s executive director.

Questions about Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifact program can be directed to Christina Newton at Virginia Association of Museums at (804)358-3173 or

Kluge-Ruhe Collection Hosts Indigenous Curator Kimberley Moulton • Wednesday July 29, 2015

This summer, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection has commenced its first International Indigenous Arts Fellowship in partnership with the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). The NGA selected Kimberley Moulton, a past participant in their Indigenous Arts Leadership program, to undertake a six-week project at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in Charlottesville. Moulton is a curator at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum (Museum Victoria).

The Fellowship is an opportunity for early to mid-career Indigenous arts professionals to gain international experience to boost their professional development, develop new skill sets, explore the diversity of careers available in the industry and build a wider network of colleagues. It is part of a broader Indigenous Arts Leadership program that assists Indigenous people who are working or want to work within the visual arts industry. This program is jointly funded by the National Gallery of Australia and Wesfarmers, one of Australia’s largest retail companies.

Kimberley Moulton is a Yorta-Yorta woman who has spent the past six years as the Curator and Project Officer of the Birrarung Gallery, the contemporary art space of the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre. An emerging leader and mentor in the Australian visual arts, she was also chosen for the inaugural Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program in 2010, and in 2013 she was awarded a place at the British Council ACCELERATE program. Moulton is a board member for Banmirra Arts Inc and recently was a judge for the 2015 Western Australia Indigenous Art Awards. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Culture, Australian Indigenous Studies, and Journalism from Monash University in Melbourne, and is combining a post-graduate diploma in Indigenous Studies and a Masters of Arts Curatorship at the University of Melbourne.

For her six-week project, Moulton will be responsible for the curation, design and marketing of an exhibition of bark paintings by Djambawa Marawili, a celebrated Yolngu artist from Arnhem Land in Northern Australia. The exhibition will open on Thursday, August 20 at Night at the Museum and Moulton will discuss her curatorial practice in a Curator’s Talk on Wednesday, August 5 at 7:00 pm (registration required).

Director of Kluge-Ruhe Receives Australian Honor • Wednesday May 27, 2015

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is pleased to announce that Director and Curator Margo Smith has been appointed an honorary Member of the Order of Australia.

The Order of Australia is a way the Australian government honors individuals who have contributed outstanding service to their field. Usually appointments are only conferred to Australian citizens, so the appointment of Dr. Smith as a member is both rare and highly esteemed.

Smith said, “This is a tremendous honor and, of course, reflects the efforts of many other people, foremost the Indigenous artists who have so generously shared their art and culture with us, the staff at Kluge-Ruhe and all of our colleagues internationally who have worked with us for many years.”

Dr. Margo Smith is a native of Staunton, Virginia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from William and Mary and a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy in anthropology from the University of Virginia. She conducted fieldwork in central Australia from 1991-3 and first became involved with the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in 1995, when it was the private collection of John W. Kluge. After helping to facilitate the gift of the collection to U.Va., Dr. Smith co-edited the museum’s catalogue, Art From the Land: Dialogues with the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of Australian Aboriginal Art with Dr. Howard Morphy, which was published by the University of Virginia in 1999, the year the museum opened to the public.

Since 2003 Smith has taught various undergraduate courses at U.Va. on Aboriginal art and culture in the Anthropology and Art History departments. She has curated more than 60 exhibitions at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, some of which have travelled in the USA and abroad. In 2006 she served as consulting curator on the exhibition Dreaming Their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women Painters at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She is serving on the curatorial team for an upcoming exhibition at the Musees de la Civilisation in Quebec City, Canada.

For the past sixteen years Smith has shepherded the Kluge-Ruhe Collection into its current thriving state. Going beyond the traditional role of a museum director or curator, she has advocated for Indigenous Australian people and has worked vigorously to promote Aboriginal art and culture in the United States.

The appointment of an Order of Australia medal begins with a nomination from a community member to the General Division of the Order. Once submitted, the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat at Government House in Canberra conducts further research on nominees, and are also reviewed by the Council for the Order of Australia, which makes recommendations directly to the Governor-General. Dr. Smith will receive a gold-plated silver medal of the Order for her appointment, which is hung from the royal blue ribbon of the Order.

Jody Kielbasa, Vice Provost for the Arts at U.Va., explains “I am thrilled to learn that Margo has been recognized and honored for her significant work in promoting the work of aboriginal artists and their culture here in the United States and for her leadership and vision as the Director of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection. The Kluge-Ruhe has thrived under her direction and we look forward to its future growth and expansion.”

Brothers Exhibition Addresses Race, Discrimination and Police Violence • Thursday May 21, 2015

This summer, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. is exhibiting the artwork of Tony Albert, a Girramay artist from Townsville, Queensland, whose work engages with issues of race, police violence, discrimination and identity.
Brothers is a single installation containing twenty-six photographs of young Aboriginal men. Each man’s chest bears a red target, but Albert has also painted the photographs with designs and symbols he associates with strength and resistance. Moving Targets, a film depicting a dance commissioned by Albert from choreographer Stephen Page of Bangarra Dance Theatre, will be shown in the exhibition.

These works respond to incidents of police violence toward Aboriginal people. Specifically, Albert was inspired by events that took place in Sydney in 2012, where two teenage Aboriginal joyriders were shot and injured by police. Following this, a protest was held at Sydney’s Town Hall, and friends of the victims appeared with targets drawn on their chests.

For Albert, the target symbolizes the daily experience of being targeted because of race. It also refers to the blanket stereotypes applied to Aboriginal people as a result of government policies such as the Northern Territory Intervention. “We’re constantly wearing a target as people, but there’s also an optimistic twist about how, or why, or when we wear it or change it.” The target can also be seen as a symbol of empowerment and unity, as concentric circles are a prominent visual characteristic of Aboriginal artwork from the central desert of Australia.

Albert is clear, however, that his work is about more than the Aboriginal experience. He explains that “the ideas that I’m looking at stem from a human condition, rather than just being Aboriginal… [I’m] looking at it on a much broader social and political level, than just honing in within Australia or an Aboriginal context.” Brothers brings an international voice to the ongoing dialogue about race and discrimination surrounding recent events in the U.S. and Charlottesville. Kluge-Ruhe Director Margo Smith said, “Although this body of work was first shown in 2012, it is of particular relevance at this moment, with our nation and our local community struggling to comprehend the incidents of violence toward Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and Martese Johnson among many others.”

Curator Franklin Sirmans from Los Angeles County Museum of Art, wrote an essay for the Brothers exhibition catalogue, placing Tony’s work in conversation with a host of other internationally known contemporary artists.

Visitors will have the opportunity to reflect on the exhibition’s themes in an interactive space at the museum. Prompts like “Write or draw something you feel sorry about” will encourage participants to explore their personal experiences.

Albert’s work is held in numerous public and private collections internationally. In 2014 he won both the $100,000 Basil Sellers Art Prize and the prestigious $50,000 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Most recently, he unveiled a major commission in Sydney’s Hyde Park, a monument dedicated to Australia’s Indigenous military service men and women.

Brothers will be on view May 26 – August 9, 2015, and a reception on Friday, May 29 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm will celebrate the opening of Brothers and a new exhibition of works from the Kluge-Ruhe permanent collection. Tony Albert will visit Charlottesville July 8 – 11, and will participate in a youth art program, a panel discussion with other artists, and other public programs.

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection wishes to thank Tony Albert, Liz Nowell, Sullivan + Strumpf, Carriageworks, Franklin Sirmans and Debra and Dennis Scholl for contributing to this exhibition. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Images: Tony Albert, Brothers, 2013, courtesy of the artist.

Kluge-Ruhe Brings Artists and Teens Together For Dialogue About Identity • Thursday April 30, 2015

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection announces a new program for high school students in summer 2015. ARTinstead is an eight-session workshop for high school students that will culminate in a public panel discussion on July 11.

ARTinstead is an opportunity for Charlottesville youth to explore their roles in the ongoing local, national, and international dialogues about race. In sessions facilitated by Lora Henderson (U.Va. Curry School of Education), students will explore their own racial and cultural identities and experiences, and consider how art can be used instead of violence to encourage change. Each week, an established artist whose work engages with these topics will discuss their art practice, teach fine art techniques, and consult with each student. Participating artists are Tony Albert (Girramay, Indigenous Australian), Gerald Cournoyer (Oglala Lakota, Native American), Frank Walker (African-American), and Madhavi Reddi (Indian-American).

ARTinstead is spearheaded by U.Va. student Holly Zajur (CLAS 2015). Zajur was granted The Minerva Award to research how cultural identity is conceptualized and expressed through art, and the capacity of art as a tool for social awareness and action. Zajur, a Global Development and Arts Administration major and an intern at Kluge-Ruhe, said, “I believe that art provides an outlet for social transformation worldwide and am very grateful to the Kluge-Ruhe for supporting this vision.”

ARTinstead dovetails with the Kluge-Ruhe Collection’s summer exhibition, Brothers, a selection of works by Tony Albert. Albert’s accomplishments include Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art award, the Telstra Award, and his work is in major public and private collections internationally. Brothers explores the discrimination and targeting of Aboriginal people, issues relevant to minority groups worldwide.

ARTinstead will meet on Mondays and Fridays from 1 – 4 pm, June 15 – July 11. Students ages 14 – 18 interested in art and conversations about how race impacts their community are encouraged to apply. The deadline is May 11, 2015, and applications can be found here. Space is limited to 10 participants, so apply now!

Kluge-Ruhe Collection unveils one-of-a-kind painted rock • Thursday March 26, 2015

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is unveiling a large painted rock, seven feet high by five and a half feet wide, on March 30 at the Millmont Art Storage facility. The rock has been in storage since it was given to U.Va. by John Kluge in 1997. It will be examined by Kaitlin LaGrasta (Class of 2015), a U.Va. student who is researching depictions of the Rainbow Serpent in artworks in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection for her Distinguished Majors Program in Anthropology. LaGrasta was an intern at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in 2014 through the Institute for Public History Summer Internship program and took a class on “Australian Aboriginal Art and Culture” taught by Margo Smith, Director of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection.

Examining the rock is major undertaking, involving a team of professional art handlers, a conservator and a photographer supervised by Kluge-Ruhe Collections Manager and Registrar Nicole Wade. “Providing access to this particular work is problematic in that it weighs approximately one ton and is painted on both sides with natural ochres,” said Wade. “We’re fortunate that Kaitlin’s needs dovetailed so well with our own, giving her an opportunity to further her scholarly research, and providing us an opportunity to photograph, rehouse, and assess the work’s overall condition.” LaGrasta received a grant from U.Va. College Council to cover some of the costs of accessing the rock. The Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts also contributed support to this project.

LaGrasta said, “I haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Australia, but the resources provided by the Kluge-Ruhe Collection have allowed me to undertake this project. As an undergraduate student, I’m excited to have the opportunity to participate in original, independent research that not only will prepare me for my professional future, but also will add to the scholarly work on Aboriginal art and support its global appreciation.”

Kluge acquired the painted rock from CAZ Gallery in Los Angeles, where artists Bobby Barrdjarai Nganjmirra (1915–1992) and Thompson Yulidjirri (1930-2009) painted it in 1988. Nganjmirra and Yulidjirri were members of the Kunwinjku language group from the community of Gunbalanya in Western Arnhem Land in northern Australia. The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has many works on bark from this region depicting Rainbow Serpents, ancestral beings associated with the creation of other ancestors and sacred sites. LaGrasta’s research will augment the museum’s understanding and documentation of differing representations of Rainbow Serpents in its collection.

The rock, which has never been publically exhibited, will remain crated until the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has space to accommodate it. “This object is absolutely unique to U.Va.,” says Smith. “The artists came from a long tradition of rock art seen in amazing sites like Injalak Hill near Gunbalanya, but there is no other comparable example in any museum collection in the world.”

"New Narratives: Papunya Tjupi Prints with Cicada Press" Opens January 20 • Tuesday January 6, 2015

Isobel Gorey Nambajimba, Kapi Tjukurpa (Water Dreaming) at Watulpunyu, 2014. Image courtesy of Cicada Press.
On January 20th the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. will open a new exhibition titled New Narratives: Papunya Tjupi Prints with Cicada Press. This selection of fourteen prints is the result of an eight year partnership between Papunya Tjupi, an art center in a remote desert community, and Cicada Press, a print workshop at the University of New South Wales Art & Design in Sydney.

Papunya is a community of particular importance in Australia, best known as the birthplace of the contemporary Western Desert art movement, which launched Aboriginal art into the international art world in the 1970s and 80s. For the first time, desert artists were able to preserve and share their culture in the portable and permanent art form of acrylic on canvas, drawing from the designs and iconography found in customary art forms like ground design, sand drawing, and body painting.

The artists featured in New Narratives are the descendants of the founders of this movement. The partnership between Papunya Tjupi and Cicada Press marks the addition of the new medium of printmaking into Papunya’s art history. Many of the prints are aquatints, an intaglio printmaking technique similar to an etching that allows for a tonal effect when the plate is being engraved.

Martha McDonald Napaltjarri, Untitled, 2009. Image courtesy of Cicada Press.
The medium may have changed, but the reasons for making art have not. One of the artists, Tilau Nangala, paints “so the children can watch me paint and learn, so I can pass on my Dreaming and stories to my grandchildren.” Papunya Tjupi art center continues to be a conduit for the expertise and experience of internationally renowned senior artists to be passed onto the next generation, who make up the current group of over 100 artists, many of whom have never painted before.

A reception will be held on Friday, January 23, 2015 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm to celebrate the opening of New Narratives. In March, Michael Kempson, the master printer at Cicada Press, will visit Charlottesville and give a talk on Thursday, March 26 about the prints and his partnership with Papunya Tjupi. The exhibition will run through Sunday, May 17, 2015.

2014: The Year in Art • Friday December 19, 2014

As the year draws to a close, we are reminded of so many wonderful programs and activities we have undertaken. Here’s a month-to-month recap of the highlights.

January: We began renovations on our new Study Center and Classroom, which opened in March.

February: Aboriginal composer and musician William Barton performed a concert of Didjeridu & Strings with Charlottesville High School Orchestra String Ensemble and played with U.Va.’s McIntire String Quartet at TEDxUVA.

March: Indigenous photographer and curator Nici Cumpston began her month-long Australia Council residency. See our short film about it here.

April: We launched Tots and Dots, our monthly early visual literacy programs for infants and toddlers, introducing young children and their caregivers to basic principles of art followed by a fun hands-on project.

May: Western Albemarle High School participated in Young Art Historians, a program teaching students to use a variety of research methods while investigating objects in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. The results of YAH research are posted on our website and have been incorporated into exhibition text.

June: We brought Indigenous Australian photographer James Tylor to Charlottesville to attend LOOKbetween, a mentorship program for emerging and early career photographers from around the world.

July: Cameron McCarthy joined us for a celebration of NAIDOC Week with performances of didjeridu and dancing, and we conducted an Aboriginal Flag printmaking activity for all ages.

August: Lauren Maupin returned from six weeks in Australia studying the ways Australian museums educate the public about Indigenous art. Her trip took her to five states and territories and she visited Warlukurlangu Artists in Yuendumu and Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala.

September: Ricardo Idagi taught students in Bill Bennett’s sculpture classes the techniques used in making dari headdresses. The students then used these techniques, which included weaving, cutting feathers and sewing, to create their own sculptural works.

October: Artist Brian Robinson visited Kluge-Ruhe and gave a talk on his print and sculptural projects. His work is part of the Saltwater Country exhibition, at the Embassy of Australia.

November: Enid Wurungmurra, Warren Gurruwiwi and Jennifer Deger attended the screening of Ringtone at the Virginia Film Festival as part of the Indigenous Film Series supported by U.Va. Arts Council. We also screened Drunktown’s Finest with Navajo filmmaker Sydney Freeland and What We Do in the Shadows, which won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.

December: We developed a program on seeing Aboriginal art mindfully and a collaborative painting project for the Darden School’s Executive Education Leadership Program.

We are especially grateful to our partners throughout the year who contributed to the success of these amazing programs and others too numerous to mention: African American Teaching Fellows, Australia Council for the Arts, Australian Government Department of Education, Charlottesville High School, City Clay, the Darden School of Business, the Embassy of Australia, the Fralin Museum of Art, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, Harvey Art Projects USA, the International Residence College, the Kluge-Ruhe Advisory Council, LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, McGuffey Art Center, the McIntire Department of Art, the McIntire Department of Music, the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, TEDx Charlottesville, TEDx U.Va., U.Va. Arts Council, Vivien Anderson Gallery, the Virginia Film Festival, and Western Albemarle High School.

Of course, none of this would be possible without your participation and support!

We’ll be closed from December 22 – January 5 taking a much needed break. All of us at Kluge-Ruhe wish you a joyful holiday season and look forward to a new year of art in 2015!


Margo, Nicole, Lauren and Megan

PS – Your tax-deductible gift will enable us to continue providing these wonderful programs in 2015. Please make your gift today here.

Kluge-Ruhe Brings Three Indigenous Films to 2014 Virginia Film Festival • Friday October 10, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is pleased to announce three films by Indigenous filmmakers in the 2014 Virginia Film Festival, supported by a grant from U.Va. Arts Council. This year the museum has partnered with the Festival to present an Australian Aboriginal documentary, a Navajo feature-length drama, and a vampire comedy from New Zealand. As part of its ongoing mission to provide opportunities for Indigenous artists to introduce their work to new audiences, Kluge-Ruhe is bringing the filmmakers and cast members from two films to participate in their screenings. Tickets are available at the Virginia Film Festival’s website using the links below.

Still from Ringtone
Ringtone (2014) is a documentary film in which Australian Aboriginal families offer glimpses into their lives and relationships through their choice of cellular ringtones. From ancestral clan songs to 1980s hip hop artists and local gospel tunes, the ringtones of each individual situates them in a world of enduring connection and explores the intrusions and demands brought by mobile phones to a once remote community in northern Australia. The filmmakers Jennifer Deger, Warren Gurruwiwi and Enid Burungulmiwuy Wungungmurra of Miyarrka Media will be present for a post-screening discussion. Ringtone is also the centerpiece of the exhibition Gapuwiyak Calling, which is on view at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It will screen at U.Va. Newcomb Hall at 6:15 pm on Thursday, November 6.

Still from Drunktown's Finest
Drunktown’s Finest (2014) is written and directed by Sydney Freeland. It is the result of her decision to take up the task of crafting an on-screen story that would accurately represent the variety of lifestyles present on the Navajo reservation she called home. This feature film follows three characters, an adopted Christian girl, a rebellious father-to-be, and a promiscuous transsexual in their efforts to reconcile and escape life on the reservation. Robert Redford acted as executive producer of Drunktown’s Finest, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Sydney Freeland will be present for a discussion after the screening, which will take place at Piedmont Virginia Community College at 9:00 pm on Friday, November 7.

Still from What We Do in the Shadows
What We Do in the Shadows (2014) follows the lives of Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav, three roommates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles, although for them that includes being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. The vampires’ struggles with sunlight catastrophes, “hitting the main artery,” and trying to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection, are almost as difficult as modern obstacles like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming roommate conflicts. Written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (Fight of the Conchords), both of whom are Māori from New Zealand, the film has been called “an orgasm for the funny bone,” especially for mockumentary lovers. It will screen at U.Va. Newcomb Hall at 9:15 pm on Saturday, November 8.

Supported by U.Va. Arts Council and the Embassy of Australia.

Brian Robinson to Visit Kluge-Ruhe for Artist Talk • Monday October 6, 2014

On October 20 the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. will offer an artist talk by Indigenous Australian artist Brian Robinson (Maluyligal, Wuthathi, Dayak). Robinson’s prints and sculptures combine his Torres Strait Islander heritage with a strong passion for experimentation, both in theoretical approach and medium. He observes that “mythical tales explaining the origins of landforms and all manner of natural phenomena are present throughout all cultures across the globe. Stories of heroic figures, magical powers, and great and ferocious beasts are told and retold time and time again, handed down through countless generations by word of mouth ‘til present day.” Robinson’s work has been collected widely by major institutions and private collectors in Australia and overseas.

Currently his work is included in a group exhibition titled Saltwater Country, which presents new work by sixteen contemporary artists from the state of Queensland. While the term ‘country’ has come to be understood as a word that describes Indigenous Australian connections to land, this exhibition investigates the equally strong cultural connectedness to the sea and the water’s edge. It also captures the distinctive cultural and creative experience of Queensland artists as they reclaim histories, explore their pasts and establish new ways of caring for country and community using art. As part of an international tour, Saltwater Country will run from October 15 – December 17 at the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C.

Virginia Rigney, curator of Saltwater Country, will make a brief presentation about the exhibition. Two Torres Strait Islander artists whose work is featured in the exhibition, Jimmy Thaiday and Nino Sabatino, will also be present for questions and comments.

Brian Robinson’s artist talk will begin at 7:00 pm on Monday, October 20th at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and will be followed by a reception. Reservations are required; please RSVP to 434-244-0234 or

Ricardo Idagi's Exhibition 'Gurari-Saltwater Drinker' Opens • Saturday August 30, 2014

Ricardo Idagi, Barramoney (Til Next Week), 2012. Image courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne.
The Kluge-Ruhe Collection of U.Va. will host artist Ricardo Idagi, a multimedia sculptor and musician from Melbourne, September 15 – October 4, 2014. His residency and exhibition, sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will provide a number of opportunities to meet the artist and learn about his culture and artwork.

Ricardo Idagi is a Meriam man who grew up on Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait, north of mainland Australia. He was encouraged to produce art by two uncles, one of which was Eddie Koiki Mabo, who is famous internationally for winning native title rights to Mer Island in 1993. Idadi took a commercial art course at Cairns Technical and Further Educational Institute and settled in Melbourne in 1997. He initially gained recognition at the exhibition Ilan Pasin (This is our way): Torres Strait Art in 1998 and held his first solo exhibition in 2002. He has been included a number of major exhibitions over the last five years, and has won two prestigious Australian art awards: the Western Australian Indigenous Art Award (2009) and the New Media category of the 28th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (2011). His work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, among others.

The exhibition of Idagi’s artwork at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, titled Gurari – Saltwater Drinker, brings together works from the last five years that serve as a visual memoir of Mer (Murray Island), Idagi’s home in the Torres Strait. The sculptures are made of a wide variety of materials, from raffia and feathers to beer cans and wrought iron. The works comment on political and social issues facing Torres Strait Islanders today, such as multigenerational alcoholism and the impact of the Anglican mission on the Island. The exhibition also honors the rich cultural heritage of Meriam people and Idagi’s own personal resilience.

Ricardo Idagi’s residency provides the rare opportunity for the community to learn from a leading Indigenous Australian sculptor. He will be present to meet visitors at the final Night at the Museum event of the summer on September 18, when the Kluge-Ruhe Collection throws open its doors to its expansive lawn for local beer, food trucks and live music. Visitors can engage with Idagi’s work in depth at a Gallery Talk on Saturday, September 20th at 10:30 am or at his Artist Talk on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:00 pm.

Idagi will also work with U.Va. students in a number of courses, and is the third resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection under its prestigious grant from Australia Council for the Arts. The exhibition and residency have been presented in partnership with Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne and the McIntire Department of Art at U.Va.

A full schedule of Idagi’s exhibition and residency is listed below. All events are held at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection.

Opening Reception of Gurari – Saltwater Drinker
4 September, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Join the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in celebrating the opening of its newest exhibition, Gurari – Saltwater Drinker, a group of mixed media sculptures by Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi. Refreshments will be served, and this event is free and open to the public.

Night at the Museum with Ricardo Idagi
18 September, 5:00 – 9:00 pm
Join us for Night at the Museum, your opportunity to explore our exhibitions after hours and enjoy the best food and music in Charlottesville! With food trucks, beer from Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, and music from local band, Red and the Romantics, this event is not to be missed. For the final Night at the Museum of the summer, a new exhibition Gurari – Saltwater Drinker by Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi will be on view, and the artist will be present for the festivities. This event is $5 for nonmembers and free for museum members.

Gallery Talk with Ricardo Idagi
20 September, 10:30 am
Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi (Meriam) will give a tour of Gurari – Saltwater Drinker, the exhibition of his work on view at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. This event is free and open to the public.

Artist Talk with Reception to Follow
23 September, 7:00 pm
Please RSVP by calling 434.244.0234 or emailing
Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi (Meriam) will present his work and discuss his art practice as a sculptor and a musician. A small reception with refreshments will follow. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Please RSVP by calling (434) 244-0234 or emailing

Nici Cumpston film released • Tuesday August 12, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has released a film about artist Nici Cumpston (Barkindji), who undertook a residency sponsored by Australia Council in March-April, 2014. Coloring the Landscape shows Nici hand coloring works on paper and talking about her body of work having-been-there in the Kluge-Ruhe gallery. The 8-minute film also depicts Cumpston leading a hand coloring workshop for students at the University of Virginia.

Coloring the Landscape was made by Chris Farina of Rosalia Films, who also made Stars over the Sea, about David Bosun’s residency, and the award-winning documentary, World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements.

Last week, Cumpston won the Telstra Work on Paper Award at the 31st National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in Darwin, Northern Territory. She has been named a finalist for the prestigious Bowness Photography Prize sponsored by Monash Gallery of Art.

Cumpston is associate curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of South Australia and the inaugural artistic director of Tarnanthi, an Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander visual arts festival that will be held in Adelaide in October 2015.

Vote for Kluge-Ruhe! • Saturday August 2, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has nominated a Tiwi bark basket as one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts through a program sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM). This eucalyptus bark basket, called a tunga, was made circa 1926 by a Tiwi artist on Bathurst Island in Australia’s Northern Territory. Tiwi people use tungas to collect food and water, and as ceremonial objects.

The Top 10 program, which runs from Aug 4 – 23, raises awareness about the conservation needs of museum collections throughout Virginia and Washington D.C. It also provides an opportunity for the public to participate by voting for a favorite artifact online.

“This tunga is extremely rare,” says Collections Manager Nicole Wade. “We have not found a comparable object of this age in any other museum collection in the United States. Unfortunately, the condition is such that we can’t exhibit it without conservation treatment.”

Although the Top 10 honorees do not receive a monetary reward, museums can use the designation to draw attention to their conservation needs. A bark painting from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection was named to the Top 10 in 2011 and became the focus of a fundraising campaign. Voters can make donations on the Top 10 site to benefit conservation at the museum of their choice.

“We hope everyone in Charlottesville will support our nomination and vote for our tunga,” says Kluge-Ruhe Director Margo Smith. “We’ve also notified Tiwi people at the art centers that loaned work for our current exhibition, We Are Tiwi, and are counting on their votes too.”

Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of collections and conservation experts, and Top 10 honorees, as well as a “People’s Choice” honoree, will be announced September 9th. Public votes will be considered by the panel as they make their final selections.

“This is the fourth year of our program, and we are so proud of the results that we are already seeing,” says Jennifer Thomas, executive director of VAM. “Each year we have more public involvement in our online voting, more objects being nominated, and more past honorees being conserved and saved.”

Wish you were here... • Wednesday July 30, 2014

Hello from Australia!
I’ve now travelled around this beautiful continent for four weeks, by plane, train and automobile, as well as boat and gondola! The Australian Government funded this six week excursion so that I could experience this land and its people first-hand and use what I learn to educate museum visitors about Indigenous Australian art and culture. I’ve driven over 1600 miles and have met over 70 individuals, from senior curators at museums like the National Gallery of Australia to Indigenous artists at remote art centers like Warlukurlangu Artists. I can’t begin to explain how this trip has changed me personally and professionally, but two notions have continued to surface throughout my time here. First, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has a wide and prominent reputation here and the people for whom we advocate are proud of our existence and appreciative of the work we do. The second is that Indigenous Australian art is a bit like the Grand Canyon: it has been formed over thousands of years and yet is contemporary and dynamic, there is no end to its irresistible visual impact or the intensity of its importance, and those who have experienced it feel that everyone should explore it at some point in their lives.

Yesterday I arrived at an art center called Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Center, from which many of the bark paintings in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection originate. I will be learning about Yolngu culture and discovering how the art center functions. I am so grateful to my colleagues at Kluge-Ruhe and the wider art community for supporting me in this endeavor, and I look forward to bringing back many ideas and memories when I return.

Yours, Lauren

NAIDOC Week Celebration July 6-13 • Tuesday July 1, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection will observe NAIDOC Week July 6-13. NAIDOC Week is an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields.

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection will fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags throughout the week. On Friday, July 11 there will be a drop-in family art activity from 10:30 am to noon. Participants will learn about the printmaking process and the significance of the Aboriginal flag while creating their own woodblock print to take home. Aboriginal musician Cameron McCarthy will demonstrate the didjeridu and other musical instruments beginning at 1 pm.

On Saturday, July 12, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection will host a flag-raising ceremony at 10 am followed by a free, guided tour of the exhibitions Art and Country and We Are Tiwi. Cameron will provide a program of didjeridu and Aboriginal instruments at 11:30 am. All NAIDOC Week programs are free and open to the public.

Cameron McCarthy is a descendant of the Kuku-Yalanji people on his mother’s side and the Mbabarum, Mamu and Yidinji people on his father’s side. He is an accomplished musician and dancer, having performed with the Naroo (Ngaru) Dancers in Sydney, the Naringeri Narunga Dreaming Dance Group at Ayers Rock Resort in Northern Territory and the Tjapukai Dancers at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns, North Queensland. Cameron relocated to New York in 2001 where he has been performing as a freelance artist and has established himself as a didjeridu player, dancer, public speaker and artist. He is a Cultural Affairs Officer for the Australian Consulate General in New York.

For more information please contact the Kluge-Ruhe Collection at 434 244-0234.

Photographer James Tylor Visits Kluge-Ruhe for LOOKBetween • Thursday May 22, 2014

James Tylor, Rice and Sugar, 2013, becquerel daguerreotype
In June the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of the University of Virginia will host artist James Tylor, an Australian photographer specializing in 19th century photographic techniques. His visit will provide several opportunities to meet the artist and hear about his culture and art practice.

Of Aboriginal, European and Maori descent, Tylor uses daguerreotype and wet plate photographic processes to explore complex issues of identity and cultural representation. His investigations of Australia’s colonial past and his own heritage have prompted Tylor to fabricate objects and settings that become the subjects of his photographs.

Tylor says, “I try to highlight the less talked about parts of Australia’s history in my photography, such as the conflict between early European settlers and the Aboriginal Australians, as well as the impact that colonization has had on Australia and its first people.”

Sponsored by the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and the Embassy of Australia, Tylor will participate in LOOKbetween, an immersive mentorship program for emerging and early career photographers from around the world. An anchor event of the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, LOOKbetween provides a forum for in-depth exploration of photographic practice through presentations, discussions, collaborative projects, and collegial critique. During his stay, Tylor will give two talks about his art practice, one on June 12th at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and one co-sponsored by the Camera Heritage Museum at the Staunton Public Library on June 17th.

Kluge-Ruhe Participates in Give 4 Good • Friday May 2, 2014

On Tuesday May 6, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is participating in Charlottesville’s first day of giving!

Give 4 Good challenges you to give where you live. The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation has organized a 24-hour online giving day when more than $32,000 in matching gifts and cash prizes will amplify charitable contributions to local non-profits. To learn more, visit the Give4Good FAQs.

We invite you to support the Kluge-Ruhe Collection on May 6th by making a tax-deductible donation between 12:01 am and 11:59 pm EST.

Use this link to donate. Your donation of $25 or more will help us win matching gifts.

Want to know what your money will be used for? Your donations go to supporting our vibrant artist residency program! Click here to view a film that documents the benefits of our artist residencies for our community and U.Va. students, featuring Torres Strait Islander artist David Bosun.

Artist and Curator Nici Cumpston Visits Kluge-Ruhe for Residency • Monday March 10, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. will host Nici Cumpston (b. 1963), a Barkindji photographer, painter and curator from Adelaide, Australia. Her residency, sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will provide a variety of enriching, interdisciplinary opportunities to meet the artist and learn about her art and curatorial practice.

Nici Cumpston’s artworks are primarily landscapes, in which she photographs spiritually and culturally significant places with a medium format film camera, prints them in black and white on canvas, and hand-colors them with acrylic, watercolor, and pencil. Her first job as a photographer was for the South Australian Police Department, where she processed and printed crime scene, accident investigation, and forensic autopsy film. Cumpston continues to use photography as “evidence” in her personal art practice, as the works in her exhibition having-been-there provide proof of Aboriginal occupation of land prior to European settlement.

Museum Director Margo Smith said, “We welcome Nici’s residency and her insights both as a practicing artist and a curator of major exhibitions of Indigenous Australian art.” As the Associate Curator of Australian Paintings, Sculpture and Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, Cumpston has organized many significant exhibitions including Heartland and Desert Country, which has toured Australia since 2010. She holds a BA in Visual Arts from the University of South Australia, and her artwork is held in esteemed private and public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Parliament House Collection. Most recently she was awarded the 2013 Premier’s NAIDOC Award, and in 2012 her work was featured in the major exhibition unDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial.

Public opportunities to engage with Nici Cumpston begin at a reception to celebrate the her exhibition and residency on Friday, March 21st from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Visitors can engage more in depth with the artist and her photographs the following morning, Saturday, March 22, during a guided tour of her works at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection at 10:30 am.

Nici Cumpston will provide two public lectures at U.Va. On March 25 she will share how fine art photography can raise awareness of environmental degradation at the weekly Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Seminar Series in Clark Hall. She will speak more broadly about the breadth of her art and curatorial practices over the last fifteen years on April 8 at Campbell Hall, room 153. Cumpston will also lead a Flash Seminar at U.Va. about crime scene photography, which will include a look at the artworks of Weegee (1899 – 1968), and Andrew Savulich (b. 1949) in the Fralin Museum of Art’s collection on March 26.

Part of the residency also includes some time for Cumpston to explore the area in and around Charlottesville as the groundwork for a new body of photographs, as well as time to conduct some research on works in Kluge-Ruhe’s permanent collection.

Cumpston is the second resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection under its prestigious grant from Australia Council for the Arts, which awarded residencies to six Indigenous Australian artists. Her visit is presented in partnership with the Embassy of Australia and U.Va. McIntire Department of Art.

The schedule of the residency is below:

Public Reception with Resident Artist Nici Cumpston
Friday, March 21, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, Kluge-Ruhe Collection

Join the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and Aboriginal artist Nici Cumpston to celebrate the launch of her artist residency. Refreshments will be served, and this event is free and open to the public.

Gallery Walk and Talk with Resident Artist Nici Cumpston
Saturday, March 22, 10:30 am, Kluge-Ruhe Collection

Australian Aboriginal artist Nici Cumpston will provide a guided tour of having-been-there, an exhibition of her hand-colored landscape photographs. This event is free and open to the public, and no reservations are required.

Confronting Issues of Sustainability through Photography
Tuesday, March 25, 4:00 pm, Clark Hall 108

Nici Cumpston, an Australian Aboriginal artist from Adelaide, photographs landscapes that document the natural beauty and the destruction of the Murray-Darling Basin river system, as well as its importance to the Indigenous people of Australia. At the Undergraduate Seminar series, she will present her photographs and discuss how fine art has the power to engage with the sciences and raise awareness about environmental issues.

Crime Scene Photography Flash Seminar
Wednesday, March 26, 3:30 pm, Fralin Museum of Art Print Study Gallery

Can crime scene photography act as fine art photography, and vice versa? Australian Aboriginal photographer Nici Cumpston, who has a background in crime scene, accident investigation, and forensic autopsy photography, will lead a discussion about the documentary power of the camera using the works of Weegee and Andrew Savulich in the Fralin Museum of Art’s permanent collection.

Hand-coloring Photographs: A Workshop with Resident Artist Nici Cumpston
Saturday, April 5, 10 am – 3 pm
reserve a space by emailing

Nici Cumpston is an acclaimed Australian Aboriginal artist and curator, whose artwork primarily involves photographing landscapes, printing them in black and white, and hand-coloring them with acrylic, watercolor and pencil. Join Cumpston for a demonstration of her hand-coloring techniques and a chance to experiment with the medium under her guidance in this five hour workshop. Registration is required, space is limited to 8 U.Va. students, and lunch will be provided. Participants from any department are encouraged to sign up, but please be prepared to bring four to six prints of your own photographs.

Artist Talk by Resident Artist Nici Cumpston
Tuesday, April 8, 5:30 pm, Campbell Hall 158

Australian Aboriginal artist and curator Nici Cumpston will present the breadth of her artwork over the last fifteen years, and will discuss her practice as an artist and a curator of Indigenous art at the Art Gallery of South Australia. This event is free and open to the public, and free parking is available in the Culbreth Garage.

My Land Watercolor Workshop (for grades 2 – 12)
Saturday, April 12, 1 pm and 2:30 pm, Kluge-Ruhe Collection. Registration deadline: April 7.

Join educators from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in a free hand-coloring workshop inspired by the techniques of Nici Cumpston. Participants will engage in a brief tour and discussion of the artist’s work before using watercolors to bring color back into their own landscape photographs. To register, send a photograph of a landscape that is meaningful to you to with your name, grade, and school by April 7.
1:00-2:00 pm: 2nd – 5th graders
2:30-4:00 pm: 6th – 12th graders

William Barton to Perform with CHS Orchestra • Wednesday February 5, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection will bring internationally acclaimed composer and musician William Barton to Charlottesville for several special performances including a concert with Charlottesville High School students.

William Barton is Aboriginal man from Mount Isa in northwestern Queensland, Australia. For over twenty years he has practiced as a performer of the extended technique of the didjeridu. Barton has toured internationally since age fifteen as a soloist and in collaboration with traditional dance groups, fusion rock and jazz bands, orchestras, string quartets and mixed ensembles. He plays electric or acoustic guitar simultaneously with the didjeridu in a style he calls “didge-fusion.” Highlights of Barton’s career include performing at Carnegie Hall with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, presenting a private concert to Queen Sofia of Spain, and composing and performing a world premiere of new work with the Berlin Philharmonic at the Sydney Opera House. Most recently, his album Kalkadungu was named best classical album by ARIA in 2012.

The didjeridu is a wind instrument originated by Australian Aboriginal people, and was traditionally played in tandem with ceremonial dancing and singing. While the instrument is played widely for recreational purposes today, Barton aspires “to create a journey for people through music, to present a diversity in musical styles with the didjeridu, and to engage with audiences about the uniqueness of Australia.” He adds, “It has been a specific passion of mine to work closely with classical music and composers to develop and sustain music for the didjeridu in this environment.”

On February 19th, William Barton will perform with the Charlottesville High School Orchestra String Ensemble, led by Laura Mulligan Thomas, at U.Va.’s Culbreth Theatre at 7 pm. CHSO String Ensemble has garnered a national reputation for excellence, consistently winning top prizes at music festivals all over the country. Tickets are $10 regular admission, $5 for museum members, and free for all students. They can be purchased at the U.Va. Arts Box Office website, by calling (434) 924-3376, or by emailing

On February 22nd, Barton will perform with a group of University of Virginia students comprising the U.Va. McIntire String Quartet as part of TEDxUVA.

Kluge-Ruhe To Host Aussie Bush Banquet • Tuesday January 14, 2014

On February 21 the Kluge-Ruhe Collection will host a benefit dinner celebrating Australia’s rich cultural diversity and the unique role we fulfill in sharing it with an American audience. Our Aussie Bush Banquet features Australian fare prepared by the C & O Restaurant and a stirring program of film, bush poetry, and a performance by William Barton. We hope you will become more involved with the Kluge-Ruhe Collection by joining us at this event!

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The Aussie Bush Banquet will take place at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and begins at 6:00 pm. The program includes the premiere of Stars Over The Sea, a documentary film on Torres Strait Islander artist David Bosun, an Australian bush poetry reading by Ian Henry, and a performance by internationally acclaimed didjeridu master William Barton and the U.Va. McIntire String Quartet.

The menu catered by C & O is as follows:

Hors D’Oeuvres
Crispy coconut prawns with curry aioli
Sausage rolls
Wagyu beef carpaccio crostini with feta and dill
Warm potato soufflés with bacon and parmesan

Plated Salad
Roasted beets and feta cheese salad with mint, organic lettuces and orange vinaigrette

Barbecued Barramundi with lime-avocado salad and tamarind-ginger salsa
Braised Australian lamb shoulder with potato pastry and minted salsa verde
Grilled vegetable wellington with local tofu, chevre and bell pepper coulis

Lamingtons with warm vanilla sauce

Tickets come at a variety of price levels and can be purchased here.

We are grateful to the following sponsors for their support: Maria T. Kluge, Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, C & O Restaurant, and T & N Printing.

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Landscape as Proof of having-been-there • Wednesday January 8, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection will exhibit the work of photographer Nici Cumpston from Jan. 17 through May 18.

Cumpston is descended from the Barkindji people of New South Wales in Australia and also recognizes her Afghan, English and Irish ancestors. She is the curator of Australian Paintings, Sculpture and Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The exhibition, having-been-there, is a series of images she created to document the evidence of Aboriginal occupation in Australia before European settlement. Tree engravings, ring trees and remnants of stone tools abound in Barkindji country in New South Wales, subtle signifiers of the spiritual ancestors who once lived in and created the landscape, and of food and water sources that ensured survival. They also serve as undeniable proof of Aboriginal people “having been there,” before and amidst the colonial assertion of “terra nullius,” the idea that Australia was a “land without people.” Additionally they are records of the Murray-Darling Basin river system’s natural beauty, as well as its gradual destruction over time as a result of pollution, salination and re-routing.

Cumpston’s artistic process combines the hand-drawn and the photographic.

“Using medium format film cameras enables me to slow my pace,” she said. After printing the images in black and white on canvas, she colors them by hand with acrylic, watercolor or pencil, which gives her “time to reflect on the cultural stories shared with me by our senior cultural custodian and law man,” she said.

The opening reception for having-been-there will be held Jan. 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Cumpston’s residency at U.Va., sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will take place in March and April.

Holiday Hours and Tours 2013 • Tuesday November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Holiday

November 28 – 29: closed
All other days open with normal hours

Winter Holiday

December 23-26: closed
Friday, December 27: open 10 am – 4 pm, free guided tour at 10:30 am
Saturday, December 28: open 10 am – 4 pm, free guided tour at 10:30 am
Sunday, December 29: open 1 pm – 5 pm
December 30- January 1: closed

Kluge-Ruhe Celebrates National Native Heritage Month with Film Screenings and Flash Seminar • Monday November 4, 2013

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is celebrating National Native American Heritage Month this year with its creation of an Indigenous Film Program, as part of the Virginia Film Festival, and an associated Flash Seminar.

The Indigenous Film Program consists of two Indigenous films: the Australian Aboriginal film Satellite Boy (2012) and a Canadian Inuit film titled Uvanga. With support from U.Va. Arts Council, the Arctic Culture Forum, and the Embassy of Australia, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has been successful in bringing the writer and director of Satellite Boy, Catriona McKenzie, and an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, Stephen Loring, for discussions after the respective films. Click here to buy tickets, and here to learn more about each film and see screening times and locations.

Catriona McKenzie will also lead a Flash Seminar at U.Va., which will examine the recent trend of making films on smartphones. It will take place at OpenGrounds, at 6:45 pm on Wednesday, November 6. Pizza will be provided.

31 October 2013

Office of the Press Secretary




From Alaskan mountain peaks to the Argentinian pampas to the rocky shores of Newfoundland, Native Americans were the first to carve out cities, domesticate crops, and establish great civilizations. When the Framers gathered to write the United States Constitution, they drew inspiration from the Iroquois Confederacy, and in the centuries since, American Indians and Alaska Natives from hundreds of tribes have shaped our national life. During Native American Heritage Month, we honor their vibrant cultures and strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and each tribal nation.

As we observe this month, we must not ignore the painful history Native Americans have endured — a history of violence, marginalization, broken promises, and upended justice. There was a time when native languages and religions were banned as part of a forced assimilation policy that attacked the political, social, and cultural identities of Native Americans in the United States. Through generations of struggle, American Indians and Alaska Natives held fast to their traditions, and eventually the United States Government repudiated its destructive policies and began to turn the page on a troubled past.

My Administration remains committed to self-determination, the right of tribal governments to build and strengthen their own communities. Each year I host the White House Tribal Nations Conference, and our work together has translated into action. We have resolved longstanding legal disputes, prioritized placing land into trust on behalf of tribes, stepped up support for Tribal Colleges and Universities, made tribal health care more accessible, and streamlined leasing regulations to put more power in tribal hands. Earlier this year, an amendment to the Stafford Act gave tribes the option to directly request Federal emergency assistance when natural disasters strike their homelands. In March, I signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which recognizes tribal courts’ power to convict and sentence certain perpetrators of domestic violence, regardless of whether they are Indian or non-Indian. And this June, I moved to strengthen our nation-to-nation relationships by establishing the White House Tribal Council on Native American Affairs. The Council is responsible for promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient Native American communities.

As we observe Native American Heritage Month, we must build on this work. Let us shape a future worthy of a bright new generation, and together, let us ensure this country’s promise is fully realized for every Native American.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2013 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 29, 2013, as Native American Heritage Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


"Dreaming in Animation" Offers Opportunity for Middle Schoolers to Collaborate Globally • Wednesday October 23, 2013

Caitlin Gallagher (Class of 2014, Architecture) works on her rendering of the lizard in the story of Jiddelek.
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection has partnered with the U.Va. School of Architecture and the Virginia Film Festival to offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity for middle school students to use Pixar-style animation software. The final product will be a short animated film of an Aboriginal Dreaming story, which will be used as an educational resource by the affiliated Aboriginal community in Australia. The full-day workshop, titled Dreaming in Animation, is one of many programs offered at the Virginia Film Festival’s Family Day on Saturday, November 9th.

Each middle school participant will be mentored by a U.Va. student and taught the basics of Autodesk Maya, a comprehensive 3D software program. Then, each of the fifteen pairs will create movements for one animal in the Dreaming story, which will later be stitched together to create the final animation short.

The program is spearheaded by Lauren Maupin, Education and Program Coordinator at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, and Earl Mark, Associate Professor in the U.Va. School of Architecture. Mark, who has extensive experience working in computer animation, teaches three U.Va. classes where digital moviemaking and animation is the primary focus.

Jane Freeman, Outreach Coordinator for the Virginia Film Festival, explains that the “workshop promises to be an outstanding experience for young filmmakers. Not only will participants work with U.Va. experts, but each will have a mentor to guide him or her through the animation process. The combination of the student support along with the unique equipment incorporated in the workshop makes for a very special program!”

The “Dreaming” is a term used to describe the belief systems of Australian Aboriginal cultures, which explains the spiritual origins and existence of the land and its people. The story that will be animated in the program is about Jiddelek, a frog who drinks all the water in Australia. Animals including a wombat, a kangaroo, an emu, and other birds and lizards, become thirsty and devise a plan to make Jiddelek give the water back. Each animal dances before the frog, and finally the humorous antics of a wriggling eel cause Jiddelek to laugh, emptying the water back into the rivers, creeks, lakes and waterholes.

Animated iterations of the lizard for the Dreaming story, developed by Caitlin Gallagher (Architecture, 2015). The top image shows the rendering of the character that Caitlin hand-drew for the program, with several light sources. The second image shows the lizard selected for manipulation. The third image is a first attempt at applying a pattern or texture to the surface of the rendered lizard.
The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has collaborated with the Aboriginal group that owns the story of Jiddelek, the Gunai/Kurnai people of East Gippsland. Community organizer Doris Paton will provide the narration for the story, and the final product will be used as a tool to preserve and educate young generations of Gunai/Kurnai people about their traditional stories and heritage.

“It has been exciting to see how, with the superb dedication of Earl Mark, the program has grown to include such a variety of partners and beneficiaries. Both the workshop and the final product will provide an unparalleled opportunity for all involved,” said Lauren Maupin of Kluge-Ruhe.

Four U.Va. students (Tina Cheng, Caitlin Gallagher, Marina Michael, and Monica Mohapatra) and two alumni (Roderick Cruz and Carter Tata) are dedicating numerous hours to building the characters and the environment for the animation in preparation for the program. Fifteen U.Va. students from varying disciplines have volunteered to be mentors on the day of the program.

Professor Mark believes that “tapping into the high creativity of middle-school age participants combined with the imagination and intelligence of University students has a wonderful potential to build visual interpretations of the Dreaming Story.”

Middle school students who want to participate in this free program are encouraged to apply as soon as possible by pre-registering on the Virginia Film Festival’s Family Day website and completing the program application. The program will take place at Campbell Hall on Saturday, November 9th from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, with lunch included.

This workshop is part of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection’s Indigenous Film Program at the VFF, which was supported by a grant from U.Va. Arts Council.

Kluge-Ruhe Brings Indigenous Voices to the Virginia Film Festival • Friday October 11, 2013

Film still from Satellite Boy.
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. is pioneering the inclusion of Indigenous films in the 2013 Virginia Film Festival. Co-sponsored by U.Va. Arts Council and the Arctic Culture Forum, the Indigenous Film Program includes two feature length dramas, an Australian Aboriginal film called Satellite Boy and a Canadian Inuit film titled Uvanga . Tickets are available here.

Satellite Boy (2012) traces the story of a ten-year old boy named Pete, who takes off to the city to save the abandoned outdoor cinema he lives in with his grandfather in the desert. It will be screened on Friday, November 8 at 4:45 pm at Regal Cinemas 4 on the Downtown Mall. Writer and Director Catriona McKenzie, an Indigenous Australian, will be present for the screening and the discussion that will follow the film. McKenzie spent eight years directing documentaries for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and has won honors at a number of festivals. Starring David Gulpilil and Cameron Wallaby, Satellite Boy was an official selection for the Toronto Film Festival and was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Uvanga (2013) explores the expedition of Anna and her son, Tomas, to the small community of Igloolik in the Canadian Arctic to learn about Tomas’ paternal heritage. Tomas’ Inuk father died years ago, and the joy of the homecoming is mixed with memories of a painful chapter in the town’s shared history, creating resentment and tension. Uvanga recently won ‘Best Feature’ at the Yellow Knife International Film Festival. It will screen on Thursday, November 7 at 5:30 pm at Regal Cinemas 1 on the Downtown Mall. A Q&A will follow with Dr. Stephen Loring from the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center. Dr. Loring has over thirty years of involvement with Inuit communities and is an amateur filmmaker.

On Family Day, Saturday, November 9, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has partnered with the U.Va. School of Architecture to offer Dreaming in Animation, a program for middle-school students to try their hand using Pixar-level animation software to bring an Australian Aboriginal Dreaming story to life. The workshop will run from 9:00 – 3:30 pm in Campbell Hall. Interested participants can find the application form on the Family Day website or by emailing

Kluge-Ruhe Unveils Ceremonial Pole by David Bosun and U.Va. Sculpture Students • Monday September 30, 2013

Written by Ashley Patterson

University of Virginia students are only one month into the semester, yet art professor Bill Bennett’s “Introduction to Sculpture” class already has something to show for its work.

The students collaborated with Torres Strait Islander artist David Bosun, the artist-in-residence at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, to hand-carve a traditional ceremonial Torres Straight totem pole. Standing more than 8 feet tall and carved from a 250-year old pecan tree, the pole features faces, animals and even the students’ initials embedded into the designs.

On Tuesday, Kluge-Ruhe celebrated Bosun and U.Va. sculpture students for their collaborative work. The museum invited the University and Charlottesville community to join Bosun for a discussion on his art, culture and inspiration, culminating in the celebratory unveiling of the totem pole.

Bosun came to the University for a four-week stay as an artist-in-residence, thanks to a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. He is the first of six Indigenous Australian artists who will take part in a U.Va. residency over the next three years.

Bosun arrived in Charlottesville ready to teach, learn and create, said Margo Smith, director and curator of Kluge-Ruhe.

After finding him hammering away at the sculpture for hours on one of his first days in the studio, Smith told him, “David, you don’t have to finish that today,” but Bosun just looked up and smiled.

Bosun has been “enthusiastic and excited, ready to hit the ground running and take advantage of every opportunity,” Smith said.

Among those opportunities was the chance to work with students. Bennett’s classes met weekly with Bosun, where they learned the skills and techniques as well as the patience it takes to hand-carve a totem pole. With countless hours spent carefully pounding their mallets into the wood, the result was true artwork.

The pole was carved from a 250-year old pecan tree that recently fell at the University. Bosun celebrated the life of the tree on such historical land, saying, “We are making history with history.”

The experience of working with Bosun resonated with the students who came into the class unfamiliar with many of the techniques taught by the artist. Third-year student Sandy Williams expected individual work and the slow learning process that typically accompanies introductory courses, and was surprised to be able to participate in the creation of this piece so early in the semester.

Bosun “instilled confidence that we couldn’t mess up,” Williams said. “He was a good mentor with art-making in general.”

Bosun’s work is heavily influenced by his spiritual beliefs. Traditional totem poles play a significant part in ceremonial ancestry traditions in the Torres Straight Islands. Bosun introduced to Bennett’s students the role of the totem pole and his inspirations, which include ancestry, environment, animals and spirits. He said the passion stirred within him while creating a piece is actually the passion of his ancestors, who are using his art as a medium to speak.

Bosun said he incorporated his ancestral beliefs in creating the totem pole with Bennett’s students.

“It’s a different idea,” Williams said. “It takes opened-mindedness.”

Graduate student Lindsay Hinz had a more difficult time connecting with Bosun’s spiritual inspiration, yet she said the experience taught her “there is something in everyone’s life they can connect to, even if it isn’t ancestry.”

The collaboration not only resonated with the students but also had an impact on Bosun as well. “I had a very good experience with all the students,” he said. “It was my first time teaching and my first time teaching wood-carving. The passion they showed was a good experience for me, because I’ve never had it with my own people since I have never taught before.”

The totem pole will join Bosun’s Ngau Gidthal (My Stories) exhibition at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in mid-October. The exhibition will be on display through Dec. 29.

David Bosun Visits U.Va. for Exhibition and Residency • Wednesday August 21, 2013

Artist David Bosun, working on a sculpture totem.

In September the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of U.Va. will host artist David Bosun, a printmaker and woodcarver from Moa Island in the Torres Strait. His residency, sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will provide a variety of exciting, interdisciplinary opportunities to meet the artist and learn about his unique culture and art practice.

In 2000, David Bosun was chosen by elders as one of four artists to begin recording the Islands’ creation stories in the form of printmaking. This marked the first time that traditional stories took visual form since the loss of their material culture to missionaries and collectors a century earlier. Known for its strong figurative imagery and intricate design, or minaral, Bosun’s work reflects Melanesian influences inspired through longstanding trade between Torres Strait Islanders and coastal Papua New Guineans. The linoleum and woodblock prints in the exhibition Ngau Gidthal (My Stories), on view September 6 – December 29 at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, illustrate the ancestral traditions of the Mualgal people, from seasonal indicators used in ancient hunting practices to the significance of the constellations within the celestial sphere.

David Bosun, Baidamaw Titui Buna Urdhay Id, 2012.
Museum Director Margo Smith said, “David Bosun’s residency and exhibition will allow us to share the striking contemporary art and culture of Torres Strait Islanders, who are distinct from Aboriginal people on mainland Australia, and whose art is not well represented in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection.”

Bosun’s residency provides a unique opportunity for UVa students and the Charlottesville community to learn from a leading Indigenous Australian artist. He will briefly discuss his work at the opening reception of Ngau Gidthal (My Stories) on Friday, September 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Visitors can engage in depth with the artist the following morning, Saturday, September 7, during a guided tour of his prints at 10:30 am. Bosun will be present for the final Night at the Museum event of the summer, on Thursday, September 19, when the Kluge-Ruhe Collection throws open the doors to its expansive lawn for local beer, food trucks, and live music.

On Tuesday, September 24 at 5:30 pm, Bosun will discuss the breadth of his sculpture and printmaking practice over the last fifteen years in an Artist Talk in U.Va. Campbell Hall room 153, followed by a reception in Ruffin Hall. He will give a presentation on Torres Strait Islander astronomy at McCormick Observatory on Sunday, September 29 at 7 pm.

Bosun will work collaboratively with U.Va. studio art students on carving a wooden pole, the wood of which originates from a recent 250 year old Pecan tree that fell recently at the museum. He will also guest lecture in a printmaking class, and plans to share his knowledge and skill in traditional Torres Strait Islander dance in a course titled The Art of Dance.

David Bosun’s interest in the visual arts began at age four, when he began practicing traditional dancing and singing. He attended Cairns Technical and Further Educational Institute in 1996, and is a founding member of Mualgau Minaral Artist Collective. His work was included in Gelam Nguzu Kazi (Dugong My Son), which was the first touring exhibition of artwork from Moa Island. He is the first resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection under its prestigious grant from Australia Council for the Arts, which awarded residencies to six Indigenous Australian artists. The exhibition and residency has also been presented in partnership with Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Art Centre and The Australian Art Print Network.

See our events page for a full list of events associated with Bosun’s residency.

"Heart of the Desert" Opens Next Week • Wednesday July 31, 2013

A new exhibition of twenty works from the permanent collection titled Heart of the Desert will open on Tuesday and includes paintings from the Aboriginal communities of Papunya, Yuendumu and Balgo.

The central desert of Australia stretches from Lake Eyre in the southeast to the Kimberley Plateau in the northwest. This vast and diverse area is the homeland to people representing many different language and culture groups.

Traditional art from this region was painted on the body or drawn in the sand. Such ephemeral images have inspired more permanent and contemporary art forms, specifically acrylic paintings on board and canvas.

Beginning in 1971 at a government settlement called Papunya, Aboriginal men produced paintings on masonite, wood and eventually canvas. This activity grew into a major art movement that radiated out to the neighboring communities of Yuendumu and Balgo. Men and women artists in each place distinguished their own local style of painting by varying elements like the palette of colors and quality of dots.

The iconography of desert paintings typically represent features of the landscape, ancestral beings and their activities in the creation era known as the Dreaming (Tjukurrpa/Jukurrpa). The concentric circles, wavy lines, and animal tracks that make up the primary design elements of the art of central Australia, express a traditional body of knowledge and relationship to land that has persisted for thousands of years.

Celebrate NAIDOC Week July 7 - 14! • Monday July 1, 2013

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, and its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. NAIDOC Week is an annual week-long celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields.

In recognition and celebration, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection will fly the Aboriginal flag for the duration of the week and is offering free, public programs.


Guided Tour with Professor Howard Morphy
Sunday, July 7, 1:00 pm

To kick off NAIDOC Week, Professor Howard Morphy will give a free guided tour of the museum’s current exhibitions. Dr. Morphy is the Director of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at Australian National University and has served as advisor to the Kluge-Ruhe Collection since 1995. He is the author of several books including Ancestral Connections: Art and an Aboriginal System of Knowledge (University of Chicago Press), Aboriginal Art (Phaidon) and, with Marcus Banks, Rethinking Visual Anthropology (Yale University Press).

Reception with Master Printer Michael Kempson and Curator Tess Allas
Friday, July 12, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Join the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in celebrating the exhibition Black Prints from Cicada Press over wine and hors d’oeuvres. Michael Kempson, Director and Master Printer at Cicada Press, and Tess Allas, lecturer at the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, will be present to discuss the exhibition and the importance of NAIDOC week for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aboriginal Flag Printmaking Workshop
Saturday, July 13, 1:00 – 3:00 pm

Make your own Aboriginal flag! In this family workshop, learn about the printmaking process from Michael Kempson and the significance of the Aboriginal flag from Tess Allas. Each participant will leave with their own print of the flag.

After the Dreamings moderated discussion on June 11 • Thursday June 6, 2013

In 1988 at the Asia Society Galleries in New York, an exhibition titled Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia changed the way Americans viewed Aboriginal art. Dreamings was pivotal in defining Aboriginal art as contemporary fine art, and as a result, several American collectors including John Kluge were inspired to create world class collections. In the past year, two of these collections appeared in major exhibitions at Seattle Art Museum and the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, demonstrating the growing significance of Aboriginal art to audiences worldwide.

On June 11 at 7 p.m., the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection will host After the Dreamings – 25 Years of Australian Aboriginal Art in the U.S., a moderated discussion with Françoise Dussart and Wally Caruana, two leading figures in the study of Aboriginal art.

“We will explore the impact of the Dreamings exhibition and the changes that have happened in the years since,” said Margo Smith, Director and Curator of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. “Contemporary Aboriginal art today is very different from 1988 when the Dreamings exhibition was considered cutting edge. Dussart and Caruana can shed a lot of light on how this change occurred and what it means for Aboriginal art.”

Françoise Dussart is a Professor of Anthropology & Women’s Studies at the University of Connecticut. She has conducted field work with Warlpiri people in Yuendumu, NT over the past 30 years and was instrumental in the development of art production in Central Australia. She served on the curatorial committee for Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia and is the author of La Peinture Des Aborigenes D’Australie (Éditions Parenthèses, 1993) and The politics of ritual in an aboriginal settlement: kinship, gender, and the currency of knowledge (Smithsonian, 2000). Dussart recently contributed an essay to the catalogue for Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art which is on exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art through July 14, 2013.

Wally Caruana was Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia from 1984 to 2001, during which time he oversaw the development of one of the most important collections of Indigenous Australian art in a public museum. Caruana is the author of several publications including Aboriginal Art published by Thames and Hudson in 1993 (third edition 2012). Recently Caruana co-curated Ancestral Modern: The Kaplan –Levi Collection of Australian Aboriginal Art at the Seattle Art Museum.

Reservations are required. Please call 434-244-0234 or email

K-R announces recipients of Australia Council artist residencies • Monday May 27, 2013

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia, in partnership with Australia Council for the Arts, has awarded six residencies over the next three years to artists David Bosun, Nici Cumpston, Bronwyn Bancroft, Marshall Bell, Ricardo Idagi and Bianca Beetson. The recipients were announced at the 6th National Indigenous Arts Awards at the Sydney Opera House, Monday, May 27, 2013. Australia Council will provide partial funding for each residency and supervised the application process. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board Chair, Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin said, “We are thrilled to build such an important international bridge and look forward to the benefits not only for the artists involved but for Indigenous people and cultures in Australia and globally.”

Each four-week residency includes an exhibition at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and the opportunity to participate in the academic life of the University of Virginia through a variety of programs and collaborative projects. Kluge-Ruhe Director Margo Smith said, “The recipients are all highly accomplished artists whose areas of expertise range from sculpture to printmaking, painting and photography. Each artist will contribute significantly to our community of learning and the student experience at U.Va.”

David Bosun (Mualgal), from Moa Island in the Torres Strait, will undertake the first Australia Council residency in September 2013. He will work with students to carve Mualgal ceremonial poles that both depict and contain the spirits of ancestral beings. An expert printmaker working with linoleum and wood cut processes, Bosun will participate in a print workshop with U.Va. students and faculty.

Nici Cumpston (Barkindji) is a photographer who is also curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide. Cumpston will demonstrate her technique for making hand-colored photographs and create new work focused on the central Virginia environment.

Bronwyn Bancroft (Bundjalung) from New South Wales will expand on the painting techniques and conceptual train of thought developed in her DNA and Linear Linkages series. These works are representative of her connection to country and cultural heritage.

Marshall Bell (Kamilaroi/Yimin) from Brisbane will use the iconography of southeast Australia to revive cultural knowledge that has been concealed by colonization. He will develop a new body of paintings and construct site-specific sculptural projects with U.Va. students.

Ricardo Idagi (Meriam) from Murray Island in the Torres Strait is a sculptor and ceramic artist who will develop new work focused on identity and cultural difference. Idagi’s project involves examining the struggles shared by African Americans and Indigenous Australians in the area of civil rights.

Bianca Beetson (Kabi Kabi/Gabbi Gabbi and Waradjuri) will explore the colonial history of Virginia to develop a greater understanding of its effects on Virginia’s indigenous people. This research will inform Beetson’s artistic practice, which includes painting, photography, sculpture, textiles and new media.

“The knowledge and skills of this group of artists extends far beyond the studio,” added Smith. “We are looking forward to creating many programs across disciplines to involve as many students as possible in these residencies.”

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection began offering artist residencies in 2011 and has hosted artists Reko Rennie, Ricky Maynard, Judy Watson, Vernon Ah Kee and Yhonnie Scarce. The extended length of the Australia Council residencies will allow for more expansive creative projects and prolonged engagement with students in a variety of disciplines.

'Black Prints from Cicada Press' Opening on May 31st • Saturday May 18, 2013

For its summer exhibition the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has partnered with Cicada Press to showcase the work of Australian Aboriginal artists working in the printmaking medium.

Cicada Press is an educationally focused printmaking workshop at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales (COFA UNSW) in Sydney that places emphasis on open dialogue and the importance of lived experience in learning. Since 2006 Michael Kempson, director of Cicada Press, and Tess Allas, curator of Black Prints, have invited emerging and established Aboriginal artists to explore printmaking as an artistic practice in the form of workshops and residencies. Some of the artists were experienced printmakers, while others explored the medium for the first time. The result is an eclectic but meaningful exhibition addressing the contemporary Aboriginal experience in Australia today, by artists such as Gordon Hookey, Vernon Ah Kee, Reko Rennie and Laurel Nannup.

The title Black Prints is a word play on the Australian child’s summer obsession of collecting cicada carcasses. While ‘Greengrocers’ are the most common species of cicada, many of them can be traded for just one of the rarely found, but highly prized ‘Black Prince.’ Fittingly, spring 2013 marks the emergence of 17-year cicadas in our area.

The exhibition is part of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection’s celebration of NAIDOC week. NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week is a national Australian celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields. Details on programs celebrating NAIDOC week will be released in late May.

The public is invited for a reception to celebrate the opening of Black Prints from Cicada Press, along with the reopening of the museum’s permanent exhibition Past Forward >> Contemporary Aboriginal Art, on Friday, May 31 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.

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