From Aus to You
Published January 23, 2009
Maybe it’s Crocodile Dundee; maybe it’s the Marmite; maybe it’s that pocket of New York’s Nolita where Aussies in flip-flops descend on Ruby’s—but Australians in the US enjoy a strange, if not at all unwelcome, reputation. It’s to this cheery other-ness that the G’day USA Australia Week initiative is devoted. Last night, non-Australian Donna Karan hosted a satellite event, the Nomad Two Worlds preview exhibit, at her Urban Zen Center at the Stephan Weiss Studio. It’s a collaborative art installation by Australian-born photographer Russell James. James is best known for his fashion photography; these mixed media works were devoted to Down Under’s dark dealings with Aboriginal peoples.
The exhibition is years and frequent flyer miles to remote North Western Australia in the making. James was allowed access to significant sites by senior indigenous custodians. These burial grounds and natural wonders are often restricted to non-indigenous people. Russell’s photographs were blown up to oversized canvases, and aboriginal artists like Clifton Bieundurry painted on them.
At the opening last night, it was Australians’ “love of life” that Donna Karan praised, explaining her commitment with this project to “the coming together of the past, future, and present” (in no particular order). Meanwhile, James glowed (and it wasn’t just his sun-kissed hue) describing the “synergy” between he and Karan, and called the designer a role model. “My real hope is [to encourage more] people to be like Donna, someone who is doing this on a global scale,” he said. Hugh Jackman was also in attendance; his part in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia brought the issue home for the Australian-born actor. “Let me tell you a story,” he began, digging in to tell about a 12-year-old who wrote to him, telling him that his film had made him for the first time, “feel proud to be Aboriginal.'” Say it loud.