Quilliam’s Aboriginal Art In America

Wayne Quilliam, one of Australia’s leading Indigenous photographers whose work includes striking portraits, ceremonial scenes and magnificent landscapes that showcase his homeland, has opened the 2013 exhibition calendar for the Australian Consulate-General in New York. Quilliam spends about eight months of every year capturing images in the outback, either Broome or the Kimberley, and is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales’ Indigenous Law Centre. He has won awards including NAIDOC Indigenous Artist of the Year, Business of the Year for the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council and the 2008 Human Rights Media Award. Billabout caught up with Quilliam a few nights ago at the launch of his latest American exhibition at the Consulate, where he explained why the show isn’t themed.

“We’ve kept it open because it’s my interpretation of what I enjoy, to show America the diversity of what I do,” Quilliam said. “We’ve got nudes, landscapes, ceremony images—it’s an eclectic group of images.” Prior to arriving in New York last week, Quilliam had been at the G’Day USA 10th Anniversary Black Tie Gala in Los Angeles, where his imagery provided a vivid backdrop to the revelry.

“It was a fantastic event with 1,300 people there, and I had my artwork on the big screen with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman!” he said. Asked what he most wanted Americans to learn about Australia, Quilliam cited Aboriginal culture as the oldest living culture in the world and the nation’s diversity. “As I walk around New York and hear all the different languages and see all the different ethnicities, I think, ‘Hang on, this is exactly the same as Melbourne’,” he said. “I walk around Melbourne and we’ve got our Algerian friends and Vietnamese and Greek and Italian friends. It’s so diverse. I want Americans to see the diversity of what our culture is all about, the beauty of it.”

Quilliam said he always enjoys exhibiting his work in the U.S. because he feels Australians and Americans are very much alike. “I think you could quite easily transplant any of us into the other’s country—I don’t have any difficulty coming here,” he said. “The other day I hired a car and drove up to Joshua Tree National Park (in California), hung around Palm Springs, had a yarn with people and it was just like I was home.” He recommends Australians traveling to the U.S. visit Colorado, his favorite place where he attended a minority business conference at the end of last year with a delegation of 28 Aboriginal businesses. “It was literally like transplanting from Australia to America in a very similar fashion, it was amazing.”

Quilliam also recommends eating street food. “I always eat off the street!” he declared proudly. “In every single country I go to I eat off the street, and I’ve never had a problem, only once in Vietnam! I tend to find the food you get is powerful, it’s beautiful.” New Yorkers can catch Quilliam’s works on display at the Consulate until February.

-Carmel Melouney

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