Brandy Salmon dedicates paintings by great artists such as Da Vinci to include Aboriginal women

By acquiring famous paintings, artist Brandy Salmon creates positive images of Aboriginal people in art in her studio in the Hobart Hills.

Negative representations of Aboriginal people in artworks by non-Indigenous artists is how the proud Wiradjuri woman first found inspiration, particularly a 19th-century painting depicting an Aboriginal person as a servant waiting in the presence of Captain James Cook.

This led to the creation of a series of works celebrating Aboriginal titled The Aunty Collection.

The collection now includes five famous paintings dedicated to the depiction of Aboriginal women, often in royal positions and as a focal point for artwork.

Woman sitting next to a painting.  She wears traditional face paints.
Brandy Salmon dedicates paintings of old masters to aboriginal women.(Supplied: Brandy Salmon)

early inspiration

Homeschooling in a small rural town is why Mrs. Salmon picked up the paintbrush and started creating art.

With few friends and limited entertainment, she said she spent a lot of time searching YouTube for fun.

“I found a documentary about Rembrandt, the famous painter – I just remember feeling like I needed to do it.”

I started with pictures of family members in oil paint and fell in love with texture and longevity.

“I was painting in my little bedroom and it smelled like weed; I think it made me dance a little, but it was worth it.”

Indigenous presence in art became a focus when Ms. Salmon attended university where she studied creative arts.

“A lot of the paintings I came across were paintings of Aboriginal as servants.”

One such image is the engraving of Captain Cook taking over Australia.

Captain Cook seized the Australian continent on behalf of the British Crown in 1770 AD under the name New South Wales
Samuel Calvert’s work entitled Captain Cook Takes Over the Australian Continent on Behalf of the British Crown, 1770 CE.(Supplied: National Library of Australia)

Work by Samuel Calvert shows an Aboriginal man standing at attention in a loose-fitting suit, barefoot and carrying a tray of drinks as Captain Cook and the British begin to colonize the land.

“What you see in a lot of paintings from those periods is an art style that depicts indigenous people in a way that justifies the colonial project,” said Teriki Onos, chair of the university’s Wellin Center for Arts and Cultural Development. Melbourne.

“You’ll see Aboriginal people depicted in this almost animal-like way, which refers to a certain time period and romanticizes the conquest.”

Mr. Onos, a Yorta man, said that another art movement followed, in which indigenous people were depicted on the fringes and virtually untouched, as “noble savages”, which he said was used as propaganda to “quell aversion to treating indigenous people”. People”.

A scene depicting colonial settlers in dark colors with an aboriginal person dressed in bright colours.
Possession Island 1991 by Gordon Bennett.(Supplied: Sotheby’s)
A scene depicting colonial settlers with red, yellow, and black triangles heavily imposed in the photograph.
Possession Island (Abstract) 1991 by Gordon Bennett.(Supplied: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia)

The image of Captain Cook was later taken over by artist Gordon Bennett who created two works, Possession Island, depicting the same scene.

Using vibrant colors and adjusting the focal point of the image, Bennett changed the painting’s narrative from a ceremonial portrait to a critical reflection.

“Gordon’s work is very powerful and forthright; he seeks to redress the balance in the representation of indigenous people and the way stories are told,” said Mr. Onos.

Tiriki Onus
Teriki Onos, Chair of the Wellen Center for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development.(Supplied: Julia McGuran)

“Brandy’s work keeps this in mind when I interact with him. I love the way Brandi creates and maintains that space for herself, black women, and our communities in general.”

For Mrs. Salmon, Bennett’s work had a similar effect on her thinking.

“Seeing that painting by Gordon Bennett, an Aboriginal painter, made the switch click in my head. Wow, it made me realize I could do that.”

aunty group

Mrs. Salmon created the first paintings of my aunt’s collection, Aunt Venus, for a college assignment and said she plans to create more.

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Growing up outside her country with an adopted father, she said he never had the opportunity to learn traditional knowledge and that the loss passed on to his six children.

“I didn’t learn how to draw traditional drawing and I felt like I couldn’t do it. I felt the need to create my own style.”

My aunt’s collection now includes paintings such as Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa that have been reimagined as strong and proud indigenous women.

The name of the group itself is significant to Mrs. Salmon, who moved a lot as a child and grew up without aunts; Establishing those relationships in her new communities helped her to settle down and feel welcome.

“Whenever I met an Aboriginal woman and she allowed me to call her aunt, it would make me feel safe and happy.

“I got feedback from someone who bought an Aunty With A Black Earring the other day, and they said the painting made them feel calm and in control.”

The group is expanding

My latest Aunt is based on an ermine-bred Lady Da Vinci and features an Aboriginal woman holding a Devon sausage, an injection of humor that Salmon said would become more regular with each plate.

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“A lot of people I know aren’t black, they don’t get it when I’m talking about how much Devon I’ve been eating,” she laughed.

“Every black fella knows we love Devon, you know, it’s Devon!”

Mr. Onos laughed when he noticed Devon in Mrs. Salmon’s latest work.

“There is a wonderful magic and within that Devon is one of those products from my childhood that seems to follow me everywhere,” he said.

“There are some things and products that resonate deeply with Aboriginal families, like Devon and corned beef or Curry Kane powder.

“If you think of classic works, they often depict people and their everyday world to some extent.”

Mrs. Salmon plans to paint an appropriation for Da Vinci’s Last Dinner featuring every aunt from the chain.

For her, the series is a reminder of how much of a change there has been in the past two centuries when it comes to the portrayal of indigenous peoples in art.

“A few hundred years ago, we were cast as servants, and now we have the freedom to make my aunt’s group work.

“I don’t think I realized the impact of that.”

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