Gloria Petyarre (b c.1945-2021) was one of seven sisters who are all well known Indigenous artists, including Kathleen, Nancy, Violet and Ada Bird. She is also the niece of Emily Kame Kngwarreye.
Gloria, her family members and her skin family, first became interested in art making by participating in the Utopia Women's Silk Batik Group introduced in 1977 and initiated by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. With up to 80 members at a time, the Batik and Tie-die project became the seeding inspiration for the artists, and its tremendous success both in Australia and overseas led to another successful project introduced in 1988, again by CAAMA. This time, the artists were to paint on primed, stretched canvas finding it more exciting to work with than the silk and batik techniques they had previously used.
Her beautiful “Bush Medicine Leaves” depicts the leaves of a particular type of shrub that has medicinal qualities. The women collect the leaves and boil it down to make a paste. The sacred plant is also used in women’s ceremonies and has a variety of practical uses. She paints this story in a range of different styles and types of brushes, including her signature ‘big brush’ style.
She is arguably the most famous and significant of all female Australian Aboriginal Artists. It would be easy to think that Gloria's works are limited to bush medicine leaf works, but in fact she has quite a number of dreaming stories in her portfolio.
Another of Gloria’s most significant Dreamtime stories is that of Arnkerrthe, the Mountain Devil Lizard. The Mountain Devil Lizard (also known as Thorny Devil Lizard) is a small, colourful lizard that is covered in conical spines in camouflage shades of cream, brown and tan. It grows up to 20cm long and lives in the Utopia region of the Northern Territory in Australia. The Mountain Devil Lizard is Gloria's totem, with it comes the responsibility to look after the lizard. The Anmatyerre and Alyawerre people of Utopia have a special Dreamtime story about the lizard, believing that the lizard carries coloured ochre (natural earth pigments) in the sack around its neck and is responsible for the distribution of ochre (colour) throughout the desert landscape. Gloria developed a very popular style for Arnkerrthe Dreaming that she calls the ‘swirly ones’. A unique design by Gloria, these brush stroke swirls represent the thorny skin on the back of this gentle little lizard.
Gloria is a multi-award winning artist and a highly collectable one.
Please Note: This Artist has passed away and out of respect for Aboriginal culture, we have removed any photos of this Artist holding her artworks from our website.