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Portrait: Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, Artists

Destiny Deacon

Destiny Deacon is a photo and video artist, performer, writer and broadcaster, whose images re-interpret, parody and make transparent cultural stereotypes. She was born in Maryborough, Queensland in 1957 and educated at La Trobe and Melbourne universities. Deacon's work has been exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas. In 2005 the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney held a retrospective of her work ‘Walk and don’t look blak’ which then travelled to Tokyo, Noumea and New Zealand. She has been included in a number of important exhibitions including Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany 2002, and the Biennales of Sydney 2000, 2008.

Deacon is widely recognized for her staged photographs which employ various props, including souvenirs and kitsch, in satirical tableaus that critique notions of Aboriginality. Initially, in 1991, she employed dolls and since then they have become a signature motif. This use of non-living models informed her practice when she began to photograph people. As Deacon states, ‘I’ve never been one for “live action” shots…I’ve got to rule the roost. It’s no different dealing with inanimate objects or people, except with people I’m more terrified.’1

This method can be seen in Deacon’s ‘Portrait: Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, artists’ 1998. Burchill and McCamley, Melbourne and Mildura based collaborative artists, have been arranged in a re-enactment of Henri Matisse’s ‘Conversation’ 1908-12. The photograph echoes the deep blue background of the original painting. The two artists hold the stiff positions of Matisse and his seated wife gazing across at each other. This is one of a number of Deacon’s works that feature Australian writers, artists and other notable figures re-enacting iconic paintings. Other examples include artist Fiona Hall in a 2004 retake of Grace Cossington-Smith’s ‘The sock knitter’ 1915 and a portrait of Gary Foley inspired by William Dobell’s ‘The boy at the basin’ 1932.

1. Destiny Deacon, ‘Interview with Virginia Fraser’ in ‘Destiny Deacon: walk & don't look blak’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2004 p 109

57.9 x 71.0 cm image; 61.0 x 79.0 cm sheet