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I am comparing the works of Frida Kahlo and Ben Quilty to my pieces when investigating how their culture influences their artworks. How does their cultural background, whether the culture of their country or their people, affect the art that is produced and how people view that art from their point of view and reference? My art piece draws from cultural and social inspiration and is based on my own experiences and my relationship with the Ross River, along with my relationship with rivers in the sense of being a First Nation person and traditional custodian of the land.

The stimulus for my body of work that I was given was based on the local area’s main river, the Ross River, and I had created my paintings around my relationship with that body of water and my relationship with other rivers. I decided to focus on the weather event that happened in early 2019 when Townsville experienced a flood and I lost many of my belongings during the weather event.

My pieces during the start of the year held much sadness and anger because of what had happened to me but as we progressed towards the end of the unit and it came time to create my finalized piece, I had forgiven the river. I incorporated my culture into the piece, the First Nation’s symbol for ‘waterhole’, ‘resting place’, and ‘travel’ taking center pride painted in black acrylic on the light red oil paint background. Also, in the background were stenciled palm leaves, placed onto the canvas by using spray paint which referenced the photo that I took that I had based the body of work on. The colors all held meaning, one side of the canvas having brown and dark colors to show that at the start of the year, I was feeling wilted and warn, but towards the end (and the other side of my canvas) I began to heal and recover, conveying this by using blues, pinks, and purples. I made the symbol of waterholes, resting places, and travel black so it stood out and called attention, but I also used it not only to represent the river but to represent my emotional journey to recovering from what happened by the river.

My work reminds me of another Australian contemporary artist named Ben Quilty who is known for his distinctive oil paintings that often link to modern Australian culture as he makes a social commentary on said Australian culture (source 1). Like my artworks, his pieces are commonly inspired by culture (source 2) and how he engaged in many high-risk behaviors during his teenhood in Sydney’s North Western suburbs (source 2). His images are often oil paintings that he created using brush and pallet knife and many of them depict the culture of toxic masculinity that resides in high concentration within Australia. I am influenced by Quilty because he draws much of his inspiration from his life events and how they have affected him throughout his adulthood, along with applying them to the social commentary of his pieces. Like him, I used a personal experience in my piece and then related it to my culture and relationships with the river.

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I relate my artwork the most to the departed and famous Frida Kahlo who is known across the world for her naïve folk art style which she drew from her Mexican culture and heritage (source 3). Her artwork was inspired by her identity as a Mestizo woman and birthed surrealist pieces inspired by post-colonial Mexico, gender, race, and identity (source 3). Her artwork resonates with me because of its context as a cultural and social piece in which she draws inspiration from her identity as a Mexican woman and her identity as a unique human being, processing her emotions and evolving in her feelings.

I’ve drawn inspiration from Quilty and Kahlo because of the way they use their art to express their relationships, emotions, and experiences to the audience and people interpreting. Their use of canvas and acrylic/oil paint to express social and cultural concepts inspired me because that is what I wanted to convey with my artwork. My piece combines the ideas of using a personal experience like Ben Quilty, visualizing it with elements of traditional culture like Kahlo, and creating it on a canvas with paint like both of them.

My art was experimenting with the idea that I could use my culture, personal experiences, and multiple techniques on a singular contemporary piece. Using oil paints, spray paints, actual palm leaves, and acrylic paint on a brush, I created not only a finalized art piece but also a story that can be told through the image.

Me and my key artists and I have drawn from all create art based on the culture of our country and our people, along with making social commentary and connections to our personal lives and experiences, layering symbolism and imagery of culture, and contemporary works that convey their authentic emotions. Frida Kahlo draws from her indigenous Mexican roots by creating works in the style of folk art and Ben Quilty draws from Australia’s culture by using his pieces as social commentary of what happens in his life and inside the country, whether it’s Australian drinking and drugging problems, toxic masculinity and the political grounds of what make Australian politics. My art relates to both of these as I draw inspiration from social situations and make a commentary, much like Quilty, but also layer emotion, symbolism, and indigenous culture into my pieces like Frida Kahlo. In all three pieces, the culture and social commentary of the country and people have affected directly the type of art that had been produced.

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