- This past Saturday, Aug. 8 the Keszler Gallery in Southampton was the epicenter of a cultural and societal reconciliation with the exhibit "Nomad Two Worlds," a collaboration between Australian photographer Russell James
and Aboriginal painter Clifton Beiundurry
"Innocence Larlugunangu," one of the works on exhibit. The exhibit was a collaborative effort inspired by the Australian Prime Minister's apology to the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.
The exhibit, which was created to foster "reconciliation through art," came about after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
issued a public apology to the Aboriginal people for almost 200 years of genocide and mistreatment. "I grew up in the outback of Western Australia and we have a very divided culture out there, which is a repetitious story all around the world: ancient cultures colliding with modern cultures in a big mess," said James on the opening night of the exhibition. "A couple of years ago our government, after a lot of pressure, apologized to the Aboriginal people for a lot of the genocide and other atrocities. Because of this, an artist that I'm closely connected with, Clifton Beiundurry, who is an Aboriginal artist, and I decided it was the right moment to get together and create a collection."
The collection consists of photographs taken by James overlaid with the traditional Aboriginal painting done by Beiundurry. "I literally photographed things within the concept of the past, the present and the future, and then he the draws story back into the art," explained James. "If I photographed something that represents the past and the beautiful reign of the indigenous culture, he'd draw something that represents that. If I do something that represents where he came from, he'd draw the blood line of his family and that's how the collection developed."
Graham Lott, Kevin Londgren and Amanda Perry enjoy the exhibition.
Because it is difficult for an apology, no matter how sincere, to make up for 200 years of grievances, Beiundurry and James see their work as more than just an awareness vehicle, they see it as an extension of that first step taken by the Prime Minister. "it's kind of hard to think that just because one thing happens that anything is going to change," James related. "We felt that what we needed to do was to actually put the apology into process. So this is reconciliation through something we're doing as an awareness vehicle and also as something to raise money and support programs working with the Aboriginals."
Thomas Gerschman, Deborah Srb and William White.
"The story is about how we connected with each other and about spirituality and how the soul can relate with each and every one of us without color, without language barriers or any of those things that come into play when it comes to conflict of religion or conflict of beliefs," Beiundurry added. "It's about connection and how we communicate with each other. Traditionally, Aboriginal art would be about a story that connects with the land," he explained. "Most indigenous artists would paint about the land rather than the story but the story has a deeper meaning; It has a spiritual meaning and that doesn't have anything to relate to country or land or creed. It's about being connected and how can we show each other respect."
According to James, Beiundurry is himself a product of this schism between the Aboriginal and European cultures. "Clifton and I had a mutual friend from the Northwest and he kept saying that Clifton and I had to get together because not only is he a great artist but on top of that he was brought up by his father in the cultural way out in the bush
and his mother sent him off to school so he had a normal university education," said James. "He's right in the middle of this conflict; he doesn't know quite which side of the fence he comes down on, and sometimes I see that conflict in him. He's an amazing artist and a lot of that conflict comes out in his art."
Carolyn and Andrew Dawkins.
The show first opened in New York with help from people like Hugh Jackman
and Donna Karan
who sought to get behind the cause and spread the message of the show. After doing a workshop at the Ross School on Friday, Aug. 14 and a evening of cocktails and discussion the following night at Donna Karan's Sag Harbor store Urban Zen
, the exhibit will travel back home to Australia where it will receive continued support from the celebrity community.
has taken on a big piece of the show and we're going to open up in Melbourne and then go to the National Gallery," explained James. "This show was actually meant to be very large format-pieces - 20 feet and above - so we're going to do an opening in an aircraft hanger in the beginning and then move it to the National Gallery a week later. The Black Eyed Peas
are coming down to launch it for us; they've been big players in this especially will.i.am
, who crafted a great song for us and they're going to help promote the exhibit in Australia in late September and into October."
The exhibit will hang at the Keszler Gallery through Aug. 22.
Guests Chris Gay, Emily Estadella, and Adam Franzino appreciate the artwork on view.