Local Flavour

What inspires you most about living and practicing as an artist in this region?

Michelle Oxlee: The Murray River itself drew me to this area. I grew up in the Hunter Valley – a little river community found in the centre of New South Wales. After travelling around Australia, at different times and stages of my life, I've found myself based and grounded once more in a similar, small river community.

Libby Alexander: Living in a region with a diverse range of people - women, kids, Aboriginal people. I love the cross-cultural sharing of knowledge and skills. I'm primarily a community artist and living in a community surrounded by people, informs my practice as an artist.

A Murray Experience

Does our Murray region find itself into your art?

Michelle Oxlee: The River has always been a strong source of inspiration, with many of my artworks bizarrely based on bridges. The river community of Howlong originally had 13 bridges, all amazing and beautiful, bridges that I had to traverse and navigate daily. As each one was replaced, it was like removing and losing something in my life.

Libby Alexander: A lot of my work; painting, drawing, sculpture, is very much inspired by the Walla Walla Gum swamp – one of largest swamps in the region, teaming with bird life and inspiration.

The Art Life

What are you working on at the moment?

Michelle Oxlee: My entire world is taken up with yellow – sleeping, eating, living and breathing yellow, which has overflowed into my house. I've been blown away by the community involvement. People that have come on board from all over the world, with parcels from Western Australia and overseas. I've never witnessed these types of responses before – this project has become so far reaching. Yarn bombing is not a concept easily grasped, and is still relatively new to Australia. To understand what it is all about, we couldn't pick something little. Visions of the huge proportions of the actual submarine, and hence, the proportions of the project itself – one little, crochet stitch at a time, each little knitted stitch, finally coming together. It's taken over 2hrs to stitch around one piece that will cover part of the submarine. One lady has sat and worked on that particular piece over the past few months – volunteers have been involved, day in and day out. The experience has been amazing. The largest thing prior to this installation was the tree, yarn bombed in the CUBE Wodonga courtyard, and in comparison, that was little.

Libby Alexander: I'm not a textile artist and fibre is not part of my repertoire as an artist. I have worked in the past with Donna Pinder and Michelle Oxlee, but I'm more interested in the community aspect of this project. I went from a beginner, rookie knitter who can now cast on, knit one, pearl one. The skills acquired are cross generational and have presented an opportunity to talk to women, and people of all ages –I love the sharing aspect of this project which has opened up a whole new world – it's just been amazing. It is the collaboration from everybody, older volunteers sharing their lives, amazing stories, small communities – yarn bombing something on this scale is whimsical and plays to my sense of humour.

What themes do you explore in your art?

Michelle Oxlee: I tend to jump around a lot. At the moment, I've spent a lot of time recently working with fibre – shape is important in my art and there is a particular motif, this bizarre squiggle, that repeats itself and reveals itself. The motif is central, the materials and medium used is secondary. It keeps coming up, repeatedly in my work, and has managed to weave itself somewhere onto the submarine.

Libby Alexander: On an individual level, I'm committed to exploring feminism. I've travelled a lot, so bringing in those cultural cross-overs and what it means to be a woman in different cultural settings is important to me.

What is your dream project?

Michelle Oxlee: Something that makes me laugh – the next one! That's the perfect project!

Libby Alexander: I like searching out communities that might want help and support, whether it be around issues of domestic violence or limited support services for women. It's dangerous for a white woman to go into other cultures, however, I'm really passionate about using art as an instrument to break down barriers.

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