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The art world mourns the death of an Aboriginal artist and activist

The art world is mourning the death of a pioneering contemporary Australian Aboriginal artist.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains the name of a person who has died.

Melbourne-based artist Destiny Deacon has worked in photography, video, sculpture and installation.

His work focused on dolls that represented scenes, subverting the cultural domain to reflect and parody the environments that surround us.

Born in Maryborough, Queensland, in 1957, Deacon studied politics and education before working as a teacher and then staff trainer for Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins.

Deacon took up photography when he was 30 and began making videos with well-known people in Melbourne’s Koori community.

His work was political and provocative.

Artist's photographic print showing a stacked grid of yellow plastic boxes filled with small dolls.

Windows in arrears, since 2009.(Supplied: National Gallery of Victoria)

Her friend, Indigenous academic Marcia Langton, told ABC she was a giant of contemporary art.

“He was a superstar on the Australian art scene,” Professor Langton said.

“Her work will continue to be the standard for political art, for black urban art, witty and penetrating. Her work was feminist and intersectional, free of heteronormative constraints.”

Deacon’s work examines the discrepancies between white Australian representations of Aboriginal people and the reality of Aboriginal life.

Two black dolls lean against a wall.

Being There, from 1998. ( Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery )

Roslyn Oxley, a gallery owner currently showing Deacon’s work, told RN Breakfast that the artist’s mind was always thinking in two ways.

“There are always two meanings in his work, the image says one thing and the title says another,” he said.

“She always maintained that she invented the word ‘Blak’ for black.

“She was tremendously intelligent in the way she saw herself, she was a really interesting artist, sometimes very mischievous.”

Aware , updated

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