A Discussion with Bianca Beetson

In February 2016, Bianca Beetson began an artist residency at Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection in Charlottesville, VA, the only Aboriginal art museum in the United States. Being Human, her solo exhibition at Kluge-Ruhe, highlights her self-portraiture series in which the artist took photographs of herself every day and posted them on social media. The exhibition includes Elmo Skin Cloak, created during her stay in which the artist used Tickle-Me-Elmo Dolls to make a cloak in the traditional pattern of a possum skin cloak, an Indigenous Australian article of clothing. University of Pittsburgh History of Art and Architecture PhD student Marina Tyquiengco met Beetson on February 27, 2016 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. Beetson visited D.C and New York City as part of her artist residency.

The anticipated 30 minute interview turned into a 3 hour conversation about coevality, contemporaneity, and personal experiences with indigeneity. The first 45 minutes of the discussion are included on this page. Tyquiengco asked Beetson about her artwork and approach to art making based on time. Beetson does not make any attempt to separate her identity as an Aboriginal person from her artwork. Her positionality as woman of Gubbi Gubbi and European gypsy heritage is incorporated into her art making practice, of equal importance as her art school training. She mentioned a wide array of artistic influences from earlier generations of Aboriginal artists to Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman. Her practice is very much about questioning concepts of indigeneity and authenticity through time with pieces such as the Elmo Skin Cloak, which blends mass produced items with a traditional technique. To speak with Beetson about her work is to speak with her about herself; her art practice is just as compelling, diverse and multifaceted as the artist.

Bianca Beetson is a Brisbane based Aboriginal artist and a member of the Brisbane based Aboriginal artist collective proppaNOW. She is Lecturer of Contemporary Indigenous Art at Griffith University which offers the only degree in Aboriginal art in Australia. Her diverse oeuvre includes murals, public sculptures, installation, fiber arts, curatorial work and painting. She is a constant creator and innovator, working tirelessly through mediums and images. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is held in public and private collections in Australia.