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It is rare that when I make a friend in another country that I know I will see them again. But when I met Australian artist Susan Purdy in 2001 when we were both artists-in-residence in Taipei I knew we would see each other again. I spent the last 7 years searching for time, grants, and excuses (beyond the obvious) to get to Australia. You could say it is because of Susan that I applied for the Art Tasmania residency. (After flying here I know it is not such a big deal, I can allow myself to afford it and 28 hours of flying is not all that bad) I knew I would finally visit her. So last weekend I took a bus to the Hobart airport and flew just one hour to Melbourne, took a second bus into the city to get one more bus for the 2 hours ride to her home in the Gippsland Region Australia. It was pouring rain the whole way on a full moon night. I arrived 30 minutes late and saw Susan waiting for me at the bus stop. She looked her same bright beaming self I knew from seven years ago.

Her two dogs were in the car and  Stan a dingo shepard mix was immediately on my lap begging for scratches with his companion Dolly giving both of us disgusted looks from the back seat. Though here they are sweetly behaved at home.

We got to Susan’s home a beautiful house in the countryside with gardens all around and as we came in the gate there was a lemon tree immediately to my right followed by orange trees on both my right and left. The rain had stopped and the moon was in full view. We went inside to a nice hot fire, a glass of wine, and a huge bowl of hot soup. That night I slept better under the red woven duvet cover than any night in the last two months.

The second morning after a hardy bowl of oatmeal and lots of dog scratching I went out for a 12-mile run and was pampered by running on dirt roads. I met an old man walking with a big fat golden lab dog, with a hand carved walking stick, eating a bright red apple with bone white insides. We talked for a few minutes, he warned me about cars and looked up to the bright blue sky and said, “It is going to rain tomorrow.” Well he was right, even though it looked beautiful and bright, I woke to a red sky and it rained all morning.

That day, Sunday, Susan and I went to the exhibition opening of Kate Zyzis in Fish Creek at Gecko Gallery. The show of prints and paper cuts with 33 works sold out by the end of the two hour opening. It was such a frenzy that Susan and I spied one piece we both had to have and immediately scored one before they sold out, it was in an edition of 3. I could not resist I bought three pieces. The work is fantastic. Kate is the printmaking tech at Monash University where Susan is a Lecturer.

We also stopped at a library gallery/shop to buy some hand painted rocks by an aborigine artist whose name I do not have. I need to check with Susan who has the woman’s bio. I bough a painting on wood and on rock, Susan bought a rock and painting on canvas. They are very special.
On Monday we went to Melbourne to delivery Susan’s photogram exhibition prints for her show “The Lost Forest” to the mounter. It is going to be an extraordinary exhibition at the Latrobe Regional Gallery complete with a sound installation. If I remember correctly there are 55 prints. They will be mounted so that they appear to be flush with the wall and surround the room with just a sliver of light on them, the rest of the room darkened. Susan states this show is, “crafted as a lament for the changing of the land, this photographic installation imagines the vastness of the original forest.” It is so clear what she is communicating. The rolling steep hills around her are filled with cows and while the black and white beasts cuts a nice image on the deep green landscape, they along with extensive logging, have completely destroyed the forests. The black and white photos begin with lush ferns and foliage and move along the timeframe into industrial farming, logging and destruction of the forests, a very hot topic in Australia. I wish I could be at the opening. In Susan’s extremely generous spirit she gave me a print from the exhibition that alludes to an echidna. I now have two of her large photos. I look forward to adding this one to my wall with her other one.
After walking through her garden, talking for hours, eating really yummy food from her garden, meeting friends, and seeing art it was time to catch my plane. The time was way to short and even as I recount it, tears come to my eyes as I think how a long 7 years can bring real friends right back together again. So with that I am starting on a hand printed book here at the University of Tasmania inspired by her garden and recounting our visit. At every break I am planning my next trip to Melbourne, which if all works out will be July 31 for the opening of the Melbourne Art Fair. It will be a fast trip, flying there and back on one day, but I will get to see my friend again. Then the next morning I get to board that plane one more time for a 28 hour flight home.

See Susan’s work at http://www.susanpurdy.net/
Read about Susan’s New Branches project at: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/arts/sunmorn/stories/s1079979.htm


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