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Jewellery: Real and Imagined 1993

At the time I made this work was living in Launceston, Tasmania, and I was a frequent visitor to the Queen Victoria Museum there, where I spent many hours scratching and scrawling quick pen drawings in my journal from the dioramas and exhibits. As well as the taxidermied bird-life, one of my favorite pieces in the Museum was Gould’s Hummingbird Tree, a branch with many Hummingbirds mounted on its limbs from specimens collected by the famous ornithologist and naturalist John Gould.

The Hummingbird Tree transfixed me with its beauty and its sadness. These tiny birds, more than a century old, were both exquisite and tatty. The tree was something like a photograph, creating a view of these incredible creatures, whose wings in flight beat 12-90 times per second, that could never be captured by the naked eye. Like a photograph, the Hummingbird Tree embodied unspoken narratives of the passage of time, loss and presence, power and ownership. From the scrawling line drawings of the birds came bronze and silver brooches, that liberated the birds from their glass case. Although never able to fly again, their echoes did at least move through the air once more, on the bodies of those who wore the brooches.

Also during this period, I also designed many pieces of jewellery for the face and body, some of which I made as objects whilst others remained as sketches. False lips, eyebrows and beards featured heavily, as did ornamental nose and ear hair. Lorgnettes and spectacles also figured in similarly fanciful ways.