Urgent Museum Notice

Dreaming Their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women Painters

An installation view of a gallery space. There are paintings on the wall in the back, and on the wall in the front it says: "Dreaming Their Way" in big red letters, and "Australian Aboriginal Women Painters" in smaller, black letters.
Jun 30 to Sep 24, 2006

Dreaming Their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women Painters is a groundbreaking exhibition of art by 33 indigenous Australian women. The first of its kind in the U.S., the exhibition presents over seventy works of art, from intensely colorful canvases to intricate bark paintings, all demonstrating women’s bold and often experimental representations of their heritage. Many of the paintings are simply exhilarating, with their bright colors, complex compositions, and sheer joy that seems to emanate from the canvas.

The artworks draw on ancient stories, called Dreamings, as well as on each artist’s deep connection to the land. It is this link to an ancient tradition that makes Aboriginal contemporary art so unique. This exhibition is the first major presentation of contemporary art by Aboriginal women in the United States. Traditionally created by men, dreaming paintings tell stories of ancestral beings and their influence on culture and everyday life. What makes this exhibition special is the specific focus on women painters, who comprise the majority of the artists painting in these communities today.

Australian Aboriginal women’s innovations are bold and experimental, but the artists never give up their link to ancient tradition. Through their art, Aboriginal women express their relationships to their country, their understanding of the world and how it came into being, and their responsibilities for maintaining and reproducing their culture. Their painting is also a political act, stating their rights to their land and asserting the strength of their culture.

Several figures are painted on a brown background in brown hues. Small dots make up the background of the painting. There is a mix of human figures, snakes, and birds. One of the figures is larger than the others, and she is placed on the top of the painting as if she were watching over the other figures and animals.

Installation view of Lily Karedada, Wandjina, 1990

Exhibition Sponsors

This exhibition is made possible through the valuable assistance of the Embassy of Australia, Washington, D.C., and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Generous support is provided by the Macquarie Group; Chevron; Qantas; Alcoa Foundation; The Boeing Company; Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP; Marriott at Metro 1Center; Michael and Deborah Thawley; Ann Lewis, AM; Raymond Garcia and Fruzsina Harsanyi, and one anonymous donor. Special recognition goes to the NMWA Business and Professional Women’s Council for providing essential funding for this exhibition.