Dunghutti Saltwater artist, Freeda Roberts, is exhibiting her 'Seven Sisters' light installations at this year's Sculpture in the Gaol, opening Saturday, August 26.
The South West Rocks artist from Dunghutti Creations says her art always has a message of conservation, and how to care for and protect land through connection to Country.
The Seven Sisters (Matan in Dunghutti) exhibition was first created for the inaugural night show event, Sky Stories, run by South West Rocks Aboriginal Figtree Descendants Corporation and is now to be showcased at Trial Bay Gaol.
"The Seven Sisters plays a massive role within Aboriginal culture and each country has their connection to those sisters," said Ms Roberts.
The local artist says her creative career has sky-rocketed since working with South West Rocks Aboriginal Figtree Descendants Corporation and has been able to connect with the local community through shared stories.
"We've been able to actually look at some of the local issues that are happening in the area," she said.
Ms Roberts made note of the significant koala habitat in South West Rocks and why the koala is represented in her art.
"In the recent years there's been a few sightings of a Koala at Saltwater Creek...they're coming more inland," she said.
The Brolga bird is also represented in the Seven Sisters body of work.
"The Brolga has been a massive story that's just come forward in the last few years, it's always been happening, but now we've been able to showcase that story through dance and art," said Ms Roberts.
The self-taught artist started creating with acrylic paints and has moved into the digital world which she says has opened the doors to light and sculpture collaborations.
Ms Roberts started creating art after high school when she returned to her Sydney boarding school as a boarding supervisor and was thinking of ways to bring young people from all over Australia together.
"There was a lot of young Aboriginal girls, a lot of them at boarding school they come from Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria, so these young people are coming together," she said.
"The boarding supervisor at the time went and got some paint and some canvases and then we just sat down and painted and I think that was the first time we painted just for ourselves.
"I took a liking to it I suppose."
Mr Roberts said growing up she didn't have references for other painters or artists.
"I never grew up where people doing paintings was big. I never seen none of it," she said.
While her art has changed since she first starting practising, she remains influenced by the environment and Dunghutti country.
"When I first started painting it was to do with the ocean and the animals, and the sea animals in particular, and that's still highlighted really throughout my work today," she said.
Honoured with a walk-through ahead of the event, Ms Roberts is impressed with the works on display for Sculpture in the Gaol and is excited to see more after opening day.
"Some of the work in there is mind-blowing," she said.
"The work that people have put together is just crazy, in a good way."
The Opening Day celebrations which launches the event at the Gaol runs from 2-5pm on August 26, with the exhibition closing September 24.
Entry is free over the opening weekend, with workshops, live music, guided tours with the artists, food, and of course the sculptures open to the public.
Find out more: https://www.kempsey.nsw.gov.au/Business/Tourism/Sculpture-in-the-Gaol/Sculpture-in-the-Gaol
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