Other than boasting about a range of deadly creatures that will kill you in a heartbeat, Aussies are an unassuming lot. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that hiding on the second floor of Alice Spring’s Mbantua Fine Art Gallery was an Aboriginal Cultural Museum housing work from one of the most celebrated artists in the country. After paying my entry fee of $5 and being let past the dangling chain, I found myself completely alone in a museum dedicated to telling the history of the Aborigine people, as well as showcasing the paintings of Emily Kame Kngwarreye. If this had been New York, you can imagine the fee—and the line—to witness greatness that has been compared to the likes of Pollack and Rothko.
Now granted, I’m no expert. So the rooms dedicated to literature on the aboriginal culture and a historical section of old artifacts, sculptures and watercolors helped provide context. What fascinated me about Kngwarreye’s story is that she didn’t take up painting until she was 80 years old. Even then, she created her own unique style of dot painting that almost immediately received critical attention that resulted in showings as far away as the Hermitage in Russia. The gallery acquired one of her most important works in 2007 for nearly $1 million. Not too bad for a late-in-life budding artist. And that’s the other thing I love about Australians—they’ve got passion for living life to the fullest, to the very end.
Like one of my all-time favorite films Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the ultimate destination on my last trip Down Under was Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the country’s “Red Centre.” Granted, I didn’t take a bus or wear a silver lamé dress (damn), but I did sing lots of disco songs and chose a circuitous route. I found the majesty of Uluru spellbinding—one of those places that more than lives up to expectations. No wonder it’s a finalist to be one of the New7Wonders of Nature, an online poll that will announce winners on 11.11.11. Join me in voting for Uluru/Ayers Rock, by visiting www.n7w.com/uluru. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up adding Uluru to my sleeve.
Jon Paul Buchmeyer for Poptimistic.com