Image: We Are Studios by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
20 September to 28 October 2023
The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre
WE ARE is the debut exhibition and public program celebrating the creative practices of We Are Studios artists.
Over 10 weeks, We Are Studios have worked collaboratively to develop new interdisciplinary artwork onsite through a creative takeover of Blacktown Arts.
We Are Studios is a fully disability-led, inclusive studio that empowers artists with disability to reach their creative potential by creating space to thrive.
WE ARE reflects the diverse stories, experiences and connections shared within the We Are Studios artist community, through an accessible multi-sensory and interactive exhibition. Together, the artists have responded with their unique practices to elaborate on defining, embracing and sharing who we are as individuals, within a creative network and as western Sydney artists.
The exhibition invites people of all abilities to visit and experience the multi-sensory exhibition and participate through guided workshops facilitated by We Are Studios artists to contribute to participatory community installations and artworks.
Featuring artists Ebony Wightman, Emmanuel Asante, Grazia Napoletano, Jane Thatcher, Joseph Barale, Kiri Smith, Maria Macabenta, Miah Tito-Barratt, Rebecca Sciroli, Robyn Kemp, Taylah Devlin, Tim Martin, and Virginia Bucknell.
Facilitated by Liam Benson and Linda Brescia.
Curated by Creative Director, Liam Benson.
Creative team + Artist statements
We Are Studios was established in 2023 by a community of Artists with disability who believe that disability inclusion can and should start with us.
The first of our kind, We Are Studios is a fully disability-led, inclusive studio that empowers artists with disability to reach their creative potential by creating space to thrive.
Our team have experienced first-hand the barriers people living with disability face in accessing accessible arts education, professional development pathways, and the opportunities needed to build a thriving and sustainable creative practice.
We address these barriers by providing mentorship, networking and professional development opportunities to creatives with disability across Western Sydney and advocating for their inclusion within the contemporary creative arts sector.
Ebony Wightman is an emerging, multidisciplinary artist transitioning from a formal background in illustration and graphic design to a career in contemporary visual arts. Motivated by a thematic exploration of self-acceptance, Ebony’s work reflects on her experience of complex mental and physical health challenges in addition to her lived experience as an Autistic person. Through her work, Ebony advocates for the intersectional rights and identities of autistic and neurodiverse communities and people with disability at large.
Ebony’s work draws on a strong current of social justice, identity politics and personal reflection. Operating in disparate mediums such as sculpture, painting, illustration and ceramics, Ebony’s art practice is heavily driven by the present theme of her work, allowing the opportunity for her ideas to dictate her process and her use of materials.
245 x 188 x 135cm
Calico, Foam, Wool, Thread, Recycled PET Fill, Timber, fabric markers
Comfort: To make physically comfortable.
Comfort: A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.
Comfort: To give strength, aid, assistance or support.
In the context of a gallery space, this living sculpture raises the question, what does comfort look like in a creative environment?
The exaggerated form of a bed provides the physical and metaphorical platform for this conversation.
Seminal works by artists like Frida Kahlo and Tracey Emin have conjured narratives around the idea of bed and disability through lenses of mortality and confinement.
Kahlo’s The Dream (The Bed) references the bed as a final resting place, while Emin’s My Bed speaks to depression, self-harm and eventually redemption (the bed is empty, of course, because Emin decided to leave it).
The ‘bed’, in both of these works, is a private place. As a society, we are used to seeing people in bed in only the most intimate and vulnerable of moments. In contrast, this work seeks to embrace the idea of bed as a place of comfort, connection and transformation in the most public of spaces.
Visitors with disability or access needs are invited to lie down, get cosy and take in their surroundings.
The intention is for people with disability to see themselves as a welcomed part of the gallery, not just as viewers, but as integral pieces in a larger context. “Comfort” isn’t about putting the onus on the person with disability, about getting them out of the bed and into the gallery – it’s about taking the gallery to the bed or in this case, the bed to the gallery.
In a disability context, the bed at first with its neutral, calico padding conjures imagery of confinement. The bed may be present, but without engagement is it truly accessible?
Through a collaborative process, artists with disability or access needs are asked to draw a self-portrait directly onto the bed, transforming this living sculpture into a platform for true, disability-led collaboration, conversation and most of all, comfort.
Image: Ebony Wightman by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Emmanuel Asante is a young western Sydney artist from Ghana in West Africa, arriving in Australia in 2015. Emmanuel is highly influence by his culture, Frida Kahlo and his artist-mentor Abdul Abdullah. Self-taught, Emmanuel commenced painting and drawing to deal with depression and personal experiences. He is a recent recipient of the 2019 Youth Achievement Award in Creative Arts, and was featured in the story Behind every number is a student, published in the The Age newspaper.
Image: Emmanuel Asante by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Grazia Napoletano is an abstract painter whose work uses bright colours to imagery from her everyday life and happy memories. Grazia’s vibrant paintings represent the joy of connection she shares with family and friends and depicts her optimistic perception of everything that sparks joy.
Image: Grazia Napolitano by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Jane Thatcher is a painter based in western Sydney. Jane’s bold and colourful patterned shapes represent the mindfulness of meditation, her experience with nature and the emotional impact of colour. Jane creates both intimate and immersive artworks, also working in portraiture, figurative and symbolic narratives.
Image: Jane Thatcher by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Joseph Barale has been painting for more than 12 years, relying on gestures, layers of texture and tone inspired byimpressionism and expressionism. He is focused on studying and exploring, expanding the direction of where he takes his art.
Image: Joseph Barale by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Kiri Smith is a mixed media artist and mother to two young girls. Her work is a journey of self-exploration in which she seeks to makes sense of her own identity and foster a space in which her psyche can heal from the effects of intergenerational trauma and abuse. Kiri’s artwork often examines themes surrounding physical appearance and body image and how it relates to people’s self-concept and emotions.
Torn. Taught. Tethered (II) 2023
76.2 x 101.6cm
Acrylic on canvas, recycled documents, alcohol ink and pen on yupo paper, imitation gold leaf, spray paint, lace curtain, pins
Made in collaboration with Ebony Wightman & Miah Tito-Barratt
My work examines the interplay between family and disability. I have been interested in looking at myself in my role as a mother (who has a disability) to two children (who also have disabilities); and the role of heritability in the conditions we all have.
At first, I had a lot of negative emotions attached to the idea that I may have unwittingly passed on a genetic predisposition to certain disabilities – I felt like I had let my kids down because they too would be faced with many challenges resulting from their disabilities.
However, as I continued to develop my work, I began to shift my focus towards the many positives that result from the situation: sharing our lived experience of our disabilities means that I am in the unique position to truly understand some of the challenges they face, as well as the achievements they make. I am better able to support my children and all their needs, because I share some of their disabilities, and they can offer me greater support for the same reason.
Conversations I have shared with fellow We Are Studio artists through the process of creating this work, have also revealed a common thread in their family trees – of inherited disabilities/conditions. By mapping out our respective family trees we could see the significant role heritability plays in many disabilities. In the end my work is a celebration of the unique relationship between family and disability. It is just another golden thread which can connect us to our loved ones, and one that we should maybe be more grateful for than we realise.
Image: Kiri Smith by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Maria Macabentas work is based around sustainable art practice, florals, and free artistic expression. Maria’s flowers came about after trying to develop a pretty design that she could incorporate in her work.
As an extension of her work last year, Maria played with more colour and scale. Instead of canvas, she was encouraged to explore artmaking on cardboard pieces, promoting the principles of being environmentally friendly and sustainable.
The scale of the cardboard was novel to Maria, which allowed her to be more bold and free with her mark-making. She used palette knives, brushes, acrylic and watercolour paints, posca pens and pencils. The colours evoke joy. Her artwork overall shows a progression from doing detailed small works to large ones. This demonstrates her inner journey as an artist from working on details to becoming less focused on the outcome and more enjoying the process of creating.
Mr Business Frogs Collaboration 2023
163 x 105cm
Acrylic paint and posca on recycled cardboard
Collaborative drawing with We Are Studios artists and community
In this collaborative art piece, I not only asked our artists to contribute, but I also asked our support workers, volunteers & mentors to draw on it. It is done on a piece of cardboard, which is a recyclable material. I feel this allows for a little more freedom because the substrate used is not precious. It was fun to see everyone’s different ideas come together in this process work.
Magic Flowers 2023
52 x 42cm
Watercolour and pencil on paper
I explore floral motifs in my art piece. I’m still in the process of developing my own style and visual language. The flower is a Universally known design to represent beauty. I feel creating beauty around me is restorative to my Spirit & is a way to access self-healing. I used pencil, watercolour paint & a Faber Castell marker to create the work. Throughout the process of creating my work, I was challenged with using the right materials to evoke a magical feeling.
Image: Maria Macabentas by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Miah Tito-Barratt is a multidisciplinary emerging artist who is developing a practice in theater, sound, installation and visual arts. Miah’s practice currently explores the nature of their disabilities and queer identity playing with how different mediums can capture this experience. They have exhibited in multiple spaces including Front Up studios Emerge program, the Artybald exhibition, and a solo exhibit at Meraki Arts Bar. Miah has been on a panel in 2021 and facilitated a workshop in 2023 at the Art Gallery of NSW. They have performed in many productions such as, The Lies We Were Told, Hit Reset, and Teen Angst.
Image: Miah Tito-Barratt by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Rebecca Sciroli is a visual artist working in traditional media and non-traditional media such as wearable art and the facilitator of Artist Beyond Frames, south-west Sydney’s first artist with disability led studio. Rebecca’s recurring themes are the body as entangled with identity. The body is also a canvas onto which our personal story is inscribed, altered and sometimes rewritten. Rebecca’s preferred media include copper wire, silicone, glass and traditional drawing media.
Experientially Entwined (I), 2023
Duration 10 minutes
Filmed By Liam Patrick, featuring Jane Thatcher
Ebony, Jane, Virginia and I share our difficult experiences of living life with disabilities in knowing each other so well. We also share the connection of creating art in our joyous creative studio environment. In this artwork, I invite you into the space of our beautiful and close connection.
Image: Rebecca Sciroli by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Robyn Kemp is an artist working in drawing, painting, sculpture and installation. As an Art Historian, Robyn is interested in studying the development of art in recording history, with a particular focus on medieval art from late 890-1550 A.D., regarding artworks relating to King Arthur, Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table and the disintegration of King Arthur’s Court. Through her research, Robyn strongly believes she has found sufficient evidence in medieval documents and art works to prove there was more to King Arthur than just his legend as a hero.
Robyn is also interested in the comparison of the climate and environment of medieval times with the present destructive forces which are reducing our country into the comparatively polluted, toxic environments we are forced to live in today. Her work acknowledges this destruction which is motivated by greed, corruption and lack of environmental awareness, foresight and planning.
Handmade bracelets with acrylic, semi precious stone, and glass beads
Following a trip to Paddy’s Market, where I discovered a stallholder couple selling freshwater pearls and exquisite gemstones including lapis lazuli, I was delighted to discover that they would assist me to make my first pearl and gemstone adornment. I haven’t stopped! A tourist boutique in Pyrmont provided an outlet for my newfound activity which is both artistically challenging and fun!
Can you spot a bracelet amongst the collection which will be forwarded to the Queen Consort, Camilla following this Exhibition? Hint: I chose the colours, red, white and blue, the colours of both the British flag, the Union Jack, and our Australian flag.
Image: Robyn Kemp by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Taylah Devlin started practicing art at the age of 11 by going to local art galleries and learning a variety of mixed medias like drawing, painting, ink work, chalk and oil pastels. She also completed visual arts at high school from year 7-12. Taylah has a passion for drawing and painting especially when it comes to flowers. Taylah enjoys expressing herself and has a passion for painting.
Cherish the Memories 2023
Acrylic on timber, sketched flowers using led pencils, masking tape used to straighten text on the inside of the card & metal hinges
Thinking of you
I miss you my friend
Never strive to overwork too hard
I hope everyone has a great time at the exhibition
Best wishes for very good art
Thank you for the amazing memories and beautiful friendship
Dream bigger and make bigger
The world is dark and other artists brighten up
Art is a platform for people to express themselves individually without any limitations
I love everybody
Thank you for giving me something to live for, something to look forward to and something to cherish
If artists were flowers I’d pick you
Always and forever
I have Aspergers syndrome and I’ve been doing art for 18 years. I’ve done mixed media such as drawing and painting. Painting with acrylic paints is one of my biggest strengths in art. I have an eye for bright and bold colours with fine and detailed lines and colours.
This artwork is called “Cherish the Memories.” I love painting flowers & making cards for celebrations. This art project is a huge vase of flowers of each artist representing the month when they were born:
January – carnation & snowdrop
February – violet & primrose
March – daffodil
April – sweet pea & daisy
May – hawthorn & lily of the valley
June – rose & honey suckle
July – water lily & larkspur
August – gladiolus & the poppy
September – morning glory & Aster
October – marigold
November – chrysanthemum
December – holly
Inside the artwork is a poem made up of sentiments written by my fellow We Are Studios artists. I asked them to share a special message dedicated to each other.
I used acrylic paints on timber & put it together as a card using metal hinges. The background of the card on both sides is lavender. The front is all the flowers in a vase with a lakeside lilac striped tablecloth. On the back of the card is a small circle with flowers, with different shades of blue as a background & “handmade by Taylah 2023” at the bottom. Inside of the card, is a list of all the artists’ sentiments using masking tape to put it in a straight line & ultramarine blue paint to make the text pop out. Bright colours for the flowers & the entire card shows the depth, fine detail, skinny lines expresses joy and happiness.
Image: Taylah Devlin by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Timothy W. Martin is a western Sydney artist, who started oil painting in 2021 when he joined the disability art group. His art is heavily inspired by Richard Dadd, Vincent Van Gogh, Bob Ross, Martin Handford and Nadia Odlum. He also has a deep love of history and fantasy games such as Dungeons and Dragons.
Timothy makes his landscape painting into interactive stories, by using heavy detailing to hide story elements in the surroundings. In a way this makes his paintings into games. Art has always been part of his life and always something that made him happy. Timothy began practicing as an artist by learning techniques in his late 20s, and for as long as he can remember he’s always been in love with cemeteries.
“In my opinion, the older and more run down – the better. I also have a fascination with historical and abandoned buildings. The idea of them being haunted plays into my love of horror movies and fantasy. I’m very inspired by the art of Monet, Henry Darger, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Bob Ross and recently Bryan Charnley along with fantasy book covers and heavy metal CD cover art. ” – Timothy W. Martin
We all hide from Mr Low
Oil on Board
Mr Low starts out small and stalks your every thought. He judges every accomplishment and devours all your joy. He hates to see you smile, he wants to see you dead. He grows and grows and grows until there is nothing left except a hollow shell.
There’s nothing you can do except to run and hide. He waits for you to slip and to make a big mistake. Then he has you in his grasp, you’re under his control.
He hates it when you fight, he’ll try to beat you down. He likes it when you’re weak and he’ll tell you you’re pathetic and you don’t deserve to live.
Remember he is weak, remember his control of you is only in your head, remember it is you who can make him run and hide. For his power isn’t real and your smile he can’t deny. So tell your Mr Low to stay the hell away you know the coward will, you are what he fears. So say farewell to Mr Low, tell him you are strong and he can’t affect your day so just watch him shrivel up and he will go away.
“We all hide from Mr Low” is a representation of depression. Depression stops you from enjoying things, depression makes you feel worthless and helpless. Depression devours everything that is you.
I painted Mr Low to look like me in a monstrous exaggerated way, similar to how Francisco Goya painted Saturn devouring his son.
Mr Low is depicted crouching like an animal as he finishes eating, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. Within the scene, there are other versions of myself hiding behind a stone wall, hoping that Mr Low doesn’t notice them and moves on. A small child has innocently lit a flame, not realising the danger he has put everyone else in. The child is trying to cheer everyone up. This represents how I compulsively spend money and do risky behaviours to try to cheer myself up. I don’t realise that it makes it worse.
I painted this painting on top of another painting that was going nowhere. I started that painting during a low mood and lost all drive to ever finish it. I also used a sketch for a Lino I was making for TAFE before I quit a month in. I felt as if I was not fitting in with my other classmates. To summarise, basically I used two failures to complete this painting and I am owning those failures. I went with a monotone colour palette to show depression’s black and white thinking patterns.
Image: Timothy W. Martin by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Virginia Bucknell was born in Sydney, Australia. Virginia’s early paintings are inspired from her years of dance training and professional years as a dancer. In her early years Virginia studied gymnastics and ballet. Virginia is mainly self-taught, but also uses the painting tutorials online to help her learn about painting techniques, paintings materials, mediums and composition structure. In 2007 she studied Fine Arts at Hornsby TAFE. Since the 1980’s to date, she has produced many paintings and continues to develop her style of artwork, selling many paintings along the way through exhibitions, online gallery, commission and private sales.
Virginia creates paintings that when people view them, offers a peaceful feeling, a respite away from the stress of life, calming scenes of the beautiful Australian landscapes, and seascapes of the surrounding areas of greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains. She also works on dance and ballet paintings with lots of soft colours and fluid, floating lines in the pictures. She does portraits on commission basis and contemporary paintings.
The Sea of Life 2023
110 x 250 cm
Acrylic paint on Inkjet Print on canvas
Collaboration between Virginia Bucknell and Ebony Wightman
This artwork is a collaboration between Ebony and Virginia. It is a semi- abstract acrylic painting on an Inkjet print on Canvas.
The idea for this artwork was developed through collaborative conversations with Ebony, who supported the opportunity to use my surreal sketches of swaying figures and lines and then incorporate the members of We Are Studios in a photograph. The inspiration for the sketches comes from my former years as a dancer. I draw and paint dancers, showing a lot of movement in the paintings and sketches.
In the artwork the waves represent the Ocean. The mother, child and pregnant woman represent Life and new beginnings.
Artist in the photo:
Image: Virginia Bucknell by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
Liam Benson is a multi-disciplinary artist, creative workshop facilitator and socially engaged community program manager based on Dharug Country, western Sydney. Incorporating performance, photography, video and textiles, his practice reflects on the exchange within identity and culture as a living dualistic process which is both informed by and challenges historical, political, and social consciousness. Liam’s practice is informed by working collaboratively with community through an ongoing conversation surrounding the ways culture, sub-culture and identity interrelate and evolve.
Liam’s artistic practice aligns with his role as a creative workshop facilitator and manager of socially engaged initiatives, such as the Adorned Collective and We Are Studios. Liam has over a decade of experience in arts education, community engagement and creative workshop facilitation within nationwide cultural and education institutions, and community spaces.
Liam Benson’s works are held in significant public and private collections including The MCA Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Artbank and Western Sydney University.
Image: Liam Benson by Jacqui Manning
Linda Brescia is a western Sydney-based artist who investigates the banalities and complexities of everyday life experiences and rituals through painting, photography, sculpture and performance. Her practice explores dynamics around visibility and invisibility, masking, care and self-assertion.
The solo exhibition Linda Brescia: Holding up the Sky was presented at Fairfield City Museum & Gallery (2018–2019), and Brescia’s work has been presented in exhibitions and programs for Artspace, Sydney; Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre; Cementa; King Street Gallery Sydney; MOP, Sydney, Penrith Regional Gallery and Parramatta Artists’ Studios where she is an artist in residence 2021 to 2023 at their Rydalmere studios. Her work has been collected by Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Artcell Collection Management, Blacktown City Council, Penrith Regional Gallery and private collectors.
In 2020, Brescia was awarded the Blacktown City Art Prize for her portrait of American patron of the arts Peggy Guggenheim. Brescia has a long history of facilitating workshops and community projects for numerous organisations and groups.
Image: Linda Brescia by Liza Moscatelli, Mosca Media Australia
We Are is presented by Blacktown Arts and supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW and Blacktown City Council.