Drawing on her own heritage and role as a mother, mixed media artist, Paris Norton recently unveiled “White Wash”, an evocative exhibition examining the stolen generation, which is now on display at the Western Plains Cultural Centre in Dubbo.
Since relocating from Coonabarabran to Dubbo, Paris has been busy exploring the art world while raising her two- year-old son with partner and fellow artist, Dylan Goolagong.
Paris said becoming a mother had inspired most of the art she had created in the past few years, particularly with White Wash where she had incorporated physical elements to complement her photographic skills.
“I feel the need to be more physical with my work using my hands and body like I do when raising a child - I think my art has become a branch off parenting in which I now nurture and lovingly create with heavily invested personal expression,” Paris said.
“I have also found it quite interesting to re-examine my life through the eyes of a parent.
“When looking back at my own cultural history, I found it heart-wrenching to process the stories of the stolen generation and the policies surrounding the breeding out of a race.
“I immediately started creating, through art, what I thought it must have felt like as a child and parent to experience that.” Each piece of her latest exhibition has been carefully considered.
“When reading of the children who would cry at night for their mothers, I imagined all the bedtime stories they were missing out on,” Paris said. “For the mothers, I imagined all the empty, cold beds of where their children once slept.
“I then created a piece called ‘Lost’, which is a deconstructed baby blanket that has an appropriated version of the story ‘Are you my Mother?’ by Dr. Suess written within the deconstruction squares. In front of the work is a empty vintage pram.
“I wanted to create an exhibition that talked about what has happened, what we are still experiencing, and find a way in which we could all relate to it and physically experience.”
As a Gomeroi woman herself, Paris said she had found it difficult and confronting to create art about issues that had affected her family.
“I always felt the weight of what I was creating and that I could be potentially creating the narrative of many people’s real experiences,” she said.
“I had moments where I didn’t think I could put it out there or had to really think about the message I was sending.
“I created a work called ‘Survival’, dedicated to my great-grandmother, Julia Robinson. It was a setting made of a sitting room on top of native plants. It was made as a place for her to sit and look out on what she had so graciously overcome.”
Having received positive feedback for her “inclusive” exhibit, Paris said her first exhibition at the Western Plains Cultural Centre had been a fantastic opportunity.
“I applied for the WPCC Homeground program, which is open every year to artistsintheregiontoapply with a proposed exhibition.
“I was selected in 2016 and allocated a slot in 2017.
“I encourage as many artists as possible to get involved with this opportunity and apply!”
While Paris said it felt strange to have a solo exhibition in such a large institution, she was honoured to be chosen to display her art.
“As an artist it has reiterated the importance of what you represent or say with your art and how it can effect a community,” she said.
Working for Orana Arts as an administrator and projects officer by day, Paris said her art was completed in her very limited free time.
In spite of this, Paris was represented in the 2016 Walagaay Exhibition at the Fire Station Arts Centre, as a part of the Orana Arts Left Field project, and this year has been involved with the Strong Women’s Exhibition at First Draft in Sydney and Cementa17 Festival.
She will also have art on show at the upcoming Mudgee Reader’s Festival exhibition, UnderBelly Arts Festival in Sydney, The Left Field exhibition in Casula Powerhouse, Sydney, to celebrate the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, and will attend the 2017 National Gallery of Australia Indigenous leadership program in August.
Next year, Paris will have a solo exhibition, at a date to be confirmed, at First Draft in Sydney.
“I am super busy, but wanting to challenge myself, my abilities and to set an example for my son that anything is possible if you keep up the passion and commitment.
“What I want to achieve with my art is to create a place for conversation and beauty to meet.
“I am passionate about what art can do in terms of connecting people and creating new ideas.
“It’s the oldest tradition across every culture/race on the planet and I am just really happy to be a part of that tradition.”
White Wash is on show at the Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo, until Sunday, 6 August.
Paris Norton's photograph, 'Suffocation', forms part of her White Wash exhibition.