The Distance Between You and Me – Jessie Stanley

The  Castlemaine State Festival is in full swing.  This festival sets the town abuzz every two years with an array of theatre, story, dance, music, film and the visual arts offered.

Which brings me to the subject of this post – Jessie Stanley’s artwork, The Distance Between You and Me, which is described in the Festival program as …..’a series of interactive and contemporary sculptural artworks throughout the historical township of Vaughan.’

Actually, this post began some weeks ago when I picked up a postcard in the Visitor Information Centre advertising a series of workshops where community members would be taught how to fold shapes to make star flowers which would be used to create an interstellar cloud in the Vaughan Cemetery. ‘You beauty,’ I thought,  A chance to get involved in the Festival in some small way.’ So off I went to the final two hour workshop at the public hall in Guildford where I struggled for an hour before successfully making my first star flower. By the end of the workshop, I felt confident enough to take some shapes home to make more star flowers.

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This was the result of my efforts. Seven more star flowers to be added to the interstellar cloud.

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On Tuesday, the 17th of March, I decided it was time to go out to Vaughan to view the completed art work. The art work celebrates the life and times of  George and Matilda Rogers (Jessie Stanley’s forebears) who lived in Vaughan in the gold rush era when many thousands lived in the area. The art work also explores the town’s relationship with water including its mineral springs. Vaughan is now a small township nestled in bushland which has regrown since gold mining ceased.

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The first step of the journey was to pick up a map created by Jessie Stanley from the kiosk in the mineral springs reserve.

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 The next step was to rest on the George Rogers memorial seat to study the map.

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 Then a refreshing drink at one of the mineral springs.

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 Leaving the mineral springs reserve, the journey took us to the former site of the ginger beer factory owned by Jessie Stanley’s ancestor. A rather bewildered Katie is tethered to the sculpture on the site of the old well.

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 Well, I opened the door……(Katie was having none of it.)……and………

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 ………there were three of me reflected in mirror panels.

(Why do I need to hold my tongue a special way when I am taking photographs?)

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 The final stage of the journey was the Vaughan cemetery where George Rogers is buried.

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 There were the star flowers representing an interstellar cloud of water vapour floating in space. A plaque invited visitors to take a flower and plant it on a grave…..figuratively dispersing the cloud throughout the cemetery, and symbolising renewal of the water cycle.

It was quite moving seeing the flowers in the cloud and on the graves dancing in the breeze.

I suspect I was moved for reasons quite unrelated to Jessie Stanley’s motive for creating this installation. But that is the thing about art, we are free to respond in our own ways to an art work.

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Jessie Stanley wanted her art works to take the audience on a journey to discover a universal story about life-cycle, heritage, and legacy.

I am sure Jessie Stanley succeeded in this aim with the people who took the time to make the journey.

In addition to the Festival Program, I have quoted from the written information provided at the paper folding workshop.

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8 Responses

  1. Now this was a fascinating artistic tour! Thank you! I have a characteristic expression when I take photographs as well. It’s all about the concentration factor, Margaret. And how small those view finders are, I expect. 🙂

    • I am glad you found this post interesting, Jane. The experience of this art journey was quite different to viewing art in a gallery. On Tuesday, I was a participant in the art whereas in a gallery, I am an observer.

  2. Oh my, Margaret!! You had me in stitches with your comment about holding your tongue just so when taking photographs! These star flowers are captivating! About how long did it take you to create each of these? A grouping of them is just brilliant!

    • Hi Lori, It took me about 15 minutes to make each flower. Others took less time. The aim was to create 1,500 to 2,000 star flowers which all had to be mounted on wire stalks.

  3. Interactive art is the most beautiful kind, especially when a community has worked together to create it. It brings people together and gives them pause for thought and that is the very BEST kind of art. I thought that your stars were chocolate! Poor Katie, I know that if we left Earl tied up to anything we would return to a chewed lead and no dog! Wasn’t Ned Kelly born in Castlemaine? I was reading your post and my sub-conscience must have been having a bit of a hum and I suddenly had “the Wild Colonial Boy” pop up in my frontal cortex. It is still reeling off verses (that I never thought I remembered) now. Lovely art, lovely community and anytime you get to be emotionally engaged with artwork that you have taken part in creating is something special 🙂

  4. Hi Fran, I looked up Wikipedia. Ned Kelly was born in Beveridge. ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ is based on the life of a bushranger, Jack Donahue. In the Irish version of the tale, he was called Jack Duggan born in Castlemaine, Ireland whilst in the Australian version, he was called Jack Doolan born in Castlemaine, Australia.

    As for the art, yes, people are much more engaged in art that they have had a hand in. Interactive art can bring out the inner child especially if it is a playful piece.

  5. Love these stars, good job Margaret! 🙂

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