Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s work makes me think of a story I like to over-tell.
In high school, I basically learned nothing about history or geography, since I was too busy staring at the clock, struggling to keep myself from dying of ennui.
It wasn’t until college – art school to be exact – that my brain found any use for learning about the world and what had formerly transpired in it.
Art history class gave everything a new perspective for me, and set my imagination on fire with inspiration from the past and other places on earth.
I had already discovered a fascination for traditional African masks in high school, and couldn’t believe my mind when I got to visit the National Museum of African Art.
But then – suddenly – I realized there was other art in the world. So, so much art. From different countries, different time periods, made by so many different people.
Not just white men!
The art and the places and events in history all melded together for me in art history class, giving me something to latch onto and get excited about.
So when I found Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s paintings, and clicked through to see who this cool new artist was, I was jarred to find this:
How was I connecting so emotionally with a black Aboriginal woman who started making paintings well into her 70’s?
What was happening? I had just recently discovered Hilma AF Klimt and now this? My mind was blown in the best possible way.
Here are some tidbits about Emily:
She died in 1996 and left behind a huge number of amazing paintings, all made after she was 78 years old.
Emily began by making traditional sand and batik paintings for women’s ceremonies. She later ditched those mediums in favor of painting, and churned out tons of work.
Although Emily began to paint late in her life she was a prolific artist who often worked at a pace that belied her advanced age. It is estimated that she produced over 3000 paintings in the course of her eight-year painting career — an average of one painting per day.National Museum Australia
She quickly became famous, and despite rarely leaving her little space in the desert, her work was influenced by her community and nature, but looks all modern abstraction.
She would lay her canvases in front of her, outside on the ground and paint as she moved across the surface of the work.
In 2018, Qantas Airlines presented an aircraft printed with one of Emily’s works, Yam Dreaming. #artgoals