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About the Artist
Colleen is a self-taught artist who comes from a strong family tradition of Eastern Arrernte painters including Kathleen and Gabrielle Wallace. She has been painting since 1990 and paints Bush Yam, Women’s Ceremony and Bush Foods.
Colleen was raised by her mother at both Santa Teresa and Alice Springs and Colleen’s father’s country is near Gem Tree, north east of Alice Springs. Colleen’s Yam Dreaming story links through to the country of Ada Bird Petyarre, a renowned artist from Mulga Bore, Utopia, and Colleen’s grandfather, Kenny Tilmouth Panangka, has given her the rights to paint the Yam Dreaming.
Colleen’s paintings are precise dot designs with a colour field varying from warm earth tones to vibrant complementary colours like yellows and greens. The arc designs of her Bush Yam paintings refer to the digging sites. Recent developments in Colleen’s work incorporate ceremonial body paint designs and more detailed designs associated to the Bush Yam, the vine and its flower, which only grows in ‘green times’ (during rain).
Colleen now lives at both Mulga Bore, Utopia, and Alice Springs with her husband Colin Bird (Ada Bird’s son) and young children.
August 1999: notes taken with Ada (now deceased) and Colleen:
Ada Bird owns first part of Yam Dreaming – then the line runs through to Colleen’s Country. Kame Seeds [Arlatyeye – (a-lychee)] short fat one and Atnwelarre –[Arn nu larra (long skinny one)], both came from the one seed. When Arlatyeye grows it has big ears (leaf) and Atnwelarre has little ears.
Atnwelarre belongs to Ada’s country and Arlatyeye belongs to Colleen’s country. The flowers are the main flowers grown in the green time – after rain. Emu and Kangaroo enjoy eating the flowers. Colleen’s paintings illustrate the Bush Yam vine and flower. Concentric circles are where the yams are. Yellow and red ochre colours are used for Awelye – Women’s Ceremony.
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