Writing back to Willie: A Curiosity of Collecting

By Valerie Keenan.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Inspired by a collection of hand written letters, this paper reflects my developing interest in the role of material culture, ‘object/s’ and object collections in late 19th century and contemporary culture. The letters were penned by a late nineteenth-century Queensland (Australia) grazier, my great uncle, Will Henry (1896-1906), while he lived and worked on Queensland cattle properties. Will died of typhoid in 1907 at the age of 30. This paper will focus on cultural aspects that are mentioned in a collection of 74 hand written letters using objects, words and imagery as a means to analyse the way in which society presents or projects itself. I maintain that to experience society is to experience more then can be captured in words alone and the aim will be to overwhelm, permeate and fatigue while still providing points of connection, intrigue and interest. My practice strives to “see”, interpret and represent the interaction between people, their culture and environments within which they live. Parallels and juxtapositions between 19th century and the present in Australia are particularly significant as I respond to historical events, places, things and people in both periods.

Keywords: Queensland, Social History, Colonialism, Biography, Material Culture, Collections, Curiosity, Value, Agency, Body, Visual Arts

The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 1, Issue 6, pp.61-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.502MB).

Ms Valerie Keenan

PhD Student, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Currently undertaking PhD studies at the University of Southern Queensland, Valerie Keenan is a practising visual artist based at Murray Upper in Far North Queensland. Valerie draws on a variety of media including photography, painting, drawing, weaving, artist books, found and created objects to “see”, interpret and represent the interaction between people, their culture and environments within which they live. She has a substantial exhibiting profile and her work is held in a number of public and private collections.

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