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Everglades opens closet of secrets

Born Free will be part of Rod McRae’s Wunderkammer exhibition at Everglades Historic House & Gardens, Leura

By Ellen Hill for Everglades Historic House & Gardens

Everglades Historic House & Gardens will provoke and challenge environmental change by opening its closet to a secret stash of exotic animals in June.

The Wunderkammer exhibition of ethically-sourced taxidermied animals by artist Rod McRae will be displayed at the Leura landmark from June 10 to August 27 (11am to 3pm), with one of the exhibits to be displayed at the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.

Each exhibit explores an animal issue using real preserved animal bodies to tell their stories

Wunderkammer, which means “closet of secrets’’, has been on the regional art gallery circuit since 2013 and consists of 15 portals into what was, what is and what could be.

Each work explores an animal “issue’’ using real preserved animal bodies (taxidermy) to tell their stories including trophy hunting, displacement, poisoning.

A polar bear teeters on a refrigerator, a zebra is in a shipping crate on which is written a “shopping list’’ of animals available for hunt, there are penguin skeletons alongside shards of plastic and a list of harmful chemicals, a faceless baboon holding a mirror towards its head and the king of the jungle playing on a bed – with a chain around its neck.

However, no animal was harmed to make the artwork. The skins were the result of death by natural causes, medical euthanasia, hunting, culling and food production and had been traded on, sometimes multiple times before they became part of Wunderkammer. The skin of the baboon is a by-product of trophy taking.

McRae aimed to provoke thought, discussion and, ultimately, change through the sometimes hideous displays.

“I would like to believe that art can make a difference,’’ he said.

“Using the real thing creates art that is both authentic and empathetic. I argue that sculptures of animals rendered in resin, plastic, stone, wood or metal cannot speak as directly to us as the real animal.

“Each work touches on a different aspect of the human-animal relationship including biodiversity, pollution, climate change, conservation and stewardship. Each work asks us to examine our responsibilities as fellow travellers on this planet.’’

Wunderkammer will be hosted by Everglades Historic House & Gardens, Leura

A floor talk will be given at the official opening on June 10 by a curator from the Western Plains Cultural Centre. Then, on June 24, Everglades will be hosting a faux fur luncheon with Rod McRae giving another floor talk.

Everglades manager Scott Pollock said: “This exhibition is an opportunity to meet these exotic creatures up close in ways we could never do while they are alive.

“While this exhibition is provocative and even confronting, our environment surrounding us here in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area with its vast wilderness of rare, unknown and thought-to-be-extinct plant and animal species demands that we give it consideration.’’

The art deco-style of the 1930s property and squash court building which is now used as the gallery is an apt venue to showcase the unusual.

“Visitors already expect the unexpected at Everglades. We have a manmade waterfall and bathing pond, exotic landscaped gardens amongst the native bushland, unusual columns, niches and drystone walls and live Shakespeare productions, so coming across a zebra in the a squash court or Polar bear wrapped around a refrigerator won’t be too extraordinary.”

“The exhibition is very Blue Mountains of the 1930s and the local community is very comfortable with the concepts of it today actually.’’

Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura, is open from 10am to 5pm daily during daylight savings and from 10am to 4pm during autumn and winter. Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free.

Contact: : (02) 4784 1938 or email

The works included in Wunderkammer are managed by the Western Plains Cultural Centre, a facility of Dubbo Regional Council.

Rod McRae began his visual journey as a children’s book author illustrator in the 1980s producing more than 50 books.

In the `90s he experimented with photography and was twice a finalist in the Blake Prize for Religious Art.

Since 2008, McRae has explored sculpture and installation art concentrating on conservation and human-animal themes and has been a finalist in several art prizes including the Wynne Prize for Australian landscape/figurative sculpture, Fishers Ghost Art Prize and Sculpture by the Sea.

Wunderkammer is McRae’s first travelling show. It has been on the regional art gallery circuit since 2013.

* Everglades Historic House & Gardens is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

The beautiful Everglades Historic House & Gardens at Leura. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Just as good after 39 years: Original Blue Mountains art show impresses again


Bruce McGuiggan, Little Pablo LR has been a past Springwood Art Show feature.

Bruce McGuiggan, Little Pablo LR has been a past Springwood Art Show feature.

By Ellen Hill for Springwood Art Show

Gandhi was Indian Prime Minister, Montreal hosted the Olympics, Concorde took its first commercial flight, punk rock took over the airwaves, the inaugural Springwood Art Show was held – 1977 was an excellent year.

The first and longest running art show in the Blue Mountains, which helped establish the Blue Mountains’ reputation as an arts hub and recognised “city of the arts’’, will once again showcase the best established and emerging talent in the area from August 28 to 30.

Ventrilogy by Gerlinde Thomas

Ventrilogy by Gerlinde Thomas

Held at Springwood High School and co-ordinated by the Parents & Citizens Association (P&C), the event directly supports students of the school with 25 per cent of all sales including admission, café, raffle and artworks used to buy educational resources.

Snag a world-class piece from a mature artist or make a savvy long-term investment with an artwork from fresh talent, selecting from approximately 400 pieces of original art from more than 100 predominantly local artists at what has become a key community arts event.

Peruse a range of quality artisan crafts such as leather handbags, jewellery, woodwork and textiles.

Artists and photographers are welcome to submit works and enter an impressive array of art prizes including the $1000 Rose Lindsay Art Prize, $500 highly commended prize and landscape, photography, portrait and viewers’ choice awards.

There is also the Youth Art Encouragement Award and Springwood High School student recognition prizes, while the Environmental and Ecology Award will encourage reuse in art.

Principal Dr Mark Howie said: “Springwood High School prides itself on providing an inclusive environment for all our students and the art show complements the value of encouraging everyone to have a go.

“It really boosts the confidence of young emerging artists from our student body to have their work sit alongside established artists such as Guenter Barth, Sue Gasser and John Wilson.’’

P&C president Rod Murray said: “The P&C has a proud history of generating much needed funds for the school and its students through events such as the art show.

“After thirty-nine years, Springwood Art Show continues to generate a buzz among the arts community and serious collectors because it has traditionally attracted quality submissions.’’

Barry Smith, A Driving Finish LR

Barry Smith, A Driving Finish LR

This year, the P&C will begin planning for the 40th art show in 2016 and participants are encouraged to keep the year 1977 in mind when preparing pieces.

But also think about the future,’’ Mr Murray said.Our time now is just as dynamic and progressive, with huge developments in technology, medicine, fashion and music.’’

This year’s feature artist German-born Guenter Barth will lead the creative charge.

He began painting at age 16. With wife Edel (and his paints), Barth fled East Germany into Berlin in 1957 and immigrated to Australia in 1960.

However, it wasn’t until he had retired in 1994 that he could follow his dream of oil painting.

Since then, Barth has travelled extensively throughout Australia, inspired by the contrast and beauty of Australian landscapes and seascapes.

His paintings have been sold throughout Australia, Germany, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, America and Canada.

The Springwood Art Show will be held at Springwood High School, Grose Rd, Faulconbridge, from August 28 to 30, with an official opening program on the Friday evening and activities throughout the weekend.

Phone Rod Murray on (02) 4751 8245 or go to for more information.

Janet Andersen, Contemporary Still Life LR

Janet Andersen, Contemporary Still Life LR