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.