Over the years, Maree Clarke’s practice has ranged across jewellery, sculpture, photography, printmaking and video. Clarke is a Yorta Yorta / Wamba Wamba / Mutti Mutti / Boonwurrung woman who grew up in regional Victoria and now lives in Melbourne, and a large part of her work involves reclaiming cultural knowledge, such as making kangaroo teeth necklaces and possum skin cloaks.
Clarke spoke to Jane O’Sullivan about her drive to tell First Nations stories through art, in whatever form that takes, and her major show at the National Gallery of Victoria, Maree Clarke: Ancestral Memories, which surveys 30 years of her diverse practice.
Jane O’Sullivan: You’ve worked across many mediums, finding different ways to tell stories through art. You seem to have such a clear sense of purpose, but where does that story start? What was your path to art?
Maree Clarke: I didn’t go to art school or even finish high school. I pretty much wagged as often as I could. I would catch the bus to school and when I got there, I would cut through the school and meet the other black kids down the channel… When I was in my teens, I used to just about turn myself inside out wondering what my purpose in life was.
Then I was an Aboriginal Educator at the local primary school from 1978 to 1987. And after that, the local Aboriginal Corporation wanted to set up an Aboriginal art shop in Mildura and my brother Peter, who was a brilliant artist, started making jewellery for the shop. He gave me my first pair of earrings and it took me about 15 goes before I was happy with the end design, to actually show people and sell. And basically, I haven’t stopped making jewellery since.
Full story over on Art Guide.