Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings

From the Collection of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan

WSU Museum of Art, October 1–December 11, 2010

Ngamaloo, 2008Ngamaloo, 2008, acrylic on linen by Elizabeth Gordon (Balgo Hills region)

Although the details and relationships vary amongst Australian Aboriginal groups, in the beginning the landscape of the world was formed by mythical ancestral beings. Every action of these ancestors had landscape consequences. According to the fine study Aboriginal Art by Howard Morphy, art establishes a connection with those foundational events, enabling people to maintain contact with a timeless spiritual dimension. Beginning in the 19th century, anthropologists trying to understand that relationship referred to “the Dreaming,” an exploration of the nature of the world. Not surprisingly, the translation is imperfect, and some Aborigines object to its use because the spiritual process is not dreaming, but reality. Nevertheless, art is both the means of access to Dreaming and also the product of Dreaming, resulting not only in laws, but maps.

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