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128 Sculpture and Women


These 2 images are from the” Centenary of Federation Gateway” sculpture which I was commissioned to design and make by the Wakefield Regional Council and took some 18 months to complete.  The whole town came on board and helped and we had art workshops both in schools and other locations.  These panels stand in the middle of the door way on each side of the “house” and I was assisted in making them by Emily Brown and Jessica Wood, two high school students and Janette Hancock.   Here is a little more about this amazing project-  109 Stories behind the Wall and 121 Volunteers our Backbone

Door way from Centenary of Federation Gateway Sculpture,mosaic and ceramic

Entering 2001

Door way from Centenary of Federation Gateway Sculpture,mosaic and ceramic

Leaving 1901

The sculpture was officially opened on the 23rd November 2001 by Neil Andrew MP, Member for Wakefield following a community celebration in Balaklava, South Australia.  The Centenary of Federation Gateway stands proudly as you enter into the township and is believed to be the largest Naive Sculpture in the Southern Hemisphere spanning 44 meters across.  The idea is that the whole sculpture looks like a Federation house, complete with roof and a veranda.  So in the center are two six meter by three and a half meter walls, located at 22.2 degree angle to each other which are rendered to look like sandstone with red brick quoins on the corners and around the doors.

One wall represents 1901 and the other 2001.  In the 1901 doorway we see the back of a life-size woman, made from hand-made ceramic tiles and mosaic, strutting through the door in all her finery, long dress, hat and umbrella in hand.  Through the 2001 doorway, she emerges as the modern woman, complete with short skirt, sunglasses and a mobile phone.


My idea was of course to reflect the changes that our society has undergone in the last 100 years, but more particularly how much life has changed for women.

Women’s Suffrage is the right for women to both vote and run for office and the movement originated in France in the late 1700s’ and just think how brave and strong they had to be in those days to stand up for their rights in such a man’s world.  They actually used pretty strong tactics too with throwing small bombs, setting fire to letterboxes, chaining themselves to fences and smashing windows.  What they wanted was just a “say” about how the country was run without any restrictions, not to depend on whether the woman was married or worked and paid tax or owned property or land, as that was sometimes the case.

Shortly after Federation the government in Australia passed the act which allowed women to both vote and stand for federal election which then happened in 1903.  This was the case only for white women unfortunately, as the aboriginal women had to wait nearly another 60 years for that right, until 1962.  Australia was the first country to allow women to run for parliament, and now we finally have our first woman Prime minister, oh well Rome wasn’t built in a day!


Things changed again during the First World War when all the blokes went off to fight and the jobs they left behind still had to be done, so women rolled up their sleeves and went to work in a paid capacity and found out that in most cases they actually liked it!  So much so that when the blokes returned from war there were quite a few unhappy households I’d imagine.

Little by little the women chipped away at their cause and when World War 2 broke out and such a lot of men went to war the Australian women had to take over their jobs to keep the society going.  They also founded an Australian Women’s Land Army to work on farms where there were no men left.  By this stage thousands of women nurses also served overseas, some were taken as prisoners and 71 were killed while on duty.

By now the women could prove that they were able to do the same jobs as the men and some were very reluctant to be pushed out of the workforce when the men returned.  Many did stay on and work although the pay for women was still a long way of equal.

Both making this sculpture and then writing about it has been a fantastic journey for an artist, with many more artworks and paintings and art-blogs to come.

It wasn’t until the 1960’s that equality came to the bedroom with the availability of the PILL.   Now suddenly women could have the same sexual freedom as the men without fearing an unwanted pregnancy, which meant women could choose whether to have a relationship or a career.

Of course they had to fight to get the pill in some cases where the Doctors refused to prescribe them on grounds of it leading to promiscuity!

So it was fine for men to be promiscuous but not women –69. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander I say!  (use that link to have a look at a painting and blog on the same subject).

What followed was the Sex, Drugs and Rockn’Roll era so maybe they had a point, the free love and peace of the Flower Power Children.  The miniskirts and Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton , Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda were the women in the news.  However here in Australia women could still not go and have a drink in a bar without a man!  It took 2 strong willed women who chained themselves to a bar in Brisbane to change that law.

Then of course came the outspoken Germaine Greer and her book The Female Eunuch in the 70’s and the burning of the bras in the street.  In 1976 was the first Reclaim the Night protests held in Europe against violence and sexual assault.  This movement spread across the world.

In 1979 the first leader of a western country was elected – the Iron Lady; Margaret Thatcher as the British Prime Minister and later Benazir Bhutto became the first woman to be elected as the Prime Minister in Pakistan, the first woman to be elected to lead a Muslim country.

In anycase we have come a long way and us women living now have a lot to be thankful for and owe a great debt to the women who paved the way for us.

I have to say in all this that all the men that I have known without exception have been lovely and I have been lucky to grow up in an era where I have been able to follow my dreams without restrictions.  Here is a blog about the other side of the coin – 31. Men I Salute you (continuing Melbourne tales).

I think this quote fits well here by Dwight D. Eisenhower;

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him”.

Till next time, happy painting and sculpting everyone!

Love Marie xxx  (c)

Why not come and have a look at Marie Jonsson-Harrison’s PAINTINGS FOR SALEGICLEE PRINTS FOR SALE and SCULPTURES for sale or WALLBASED SCULPTURES.  Enjoy an original artwork on your walls or perhaps one on your bed ARTnBED.

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