Puppet Master

May 4, 2018 BY

CAPTION: Barwon Head’s artist Liz McGrath will feature in this year’s Geelong After Dark celebrations on May 4 and has also collaborated with hundreds of school children as part of Mountain to Mouth an 80-kilometre art walk that’s set to collide with Friday nights festivities. Photography: Michael Chambers

For this year’s Geelong After Dark (GAD) renowned local artist Liz McGrath tapped into the Bellarine’s rich history uncovering two amazing muses in the process.

As the city streets transform into works of art on May 4 by local, national and internationally renowned artists, this year’s theme Earth will be evident in Ms McGrath’s works.

Ms McGrath said she has constructed two large scale colonial dresses representative of Anne Drysdale (1792-1853) and Caroline Newcombe (1812-1892); two lady squatters that arrived in Australia separately and after a chance meeting in Geelong, went on to run successful farms together.

“I was keen to do something about local women and Geelong history, when I tried to find an individual I found this amazing pair who ended up having suburbs names after them,” Ms McGrath said.

“They were very unusual early settlers and successful farmers, they were quite social on the Bellarine and highly respected. They built Coriyule, a grand house in Drysdale at their final farm and were devoted to each other.”

Ms McGrath said the concept came to her straight away and the dresses took about a month to complete.

“They’re very exaggerated proportions, my vision was two ladies coming back from 150 years ago, wafting through the crowd and having a stroll through modern Geelong,” she said.

“They haven’t got faces or hands because I found the frocks were enough to represent them, these women were so prominent and well respected it makes them astounding women of their time.”

Ms McGrath said she’d been working closely with school children taking part in this year’s Mountain to Mouth (MTM), an extreme 80-kilometre art walk that begins at the You Yangs, crosses Geelong’s industrial heartland at nightfall and arrives in the city centre to collide with the after dark festivities.

“With MTM I’ve gone out to schools and worked with a couple of hundred school children. They’ve made lanterns that will be used in a procession in Johnson Park Friday night,” she said.

“The lanterns will also be used as part of the MTM closing ceremony that will take place Satuday in Barwon Heads.”

Ms McGrath said these events were a fantastic celebration of Geelong where art comes to the street and an energy occurs between the audience and artist.

“It celebrates Geelong and makes Geelong look fantastic these events also make art inclusive.  As for Ms Newcombe and Ms Drysdale their prestige didn’t come from their husbands, they were able to break the mould of colonial women by getting on and doing what they wanted to do to be successful.”