Sculpture at Scenic World, Katoomba

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to join a guided tour of the Sculpture at Scenic World exhibition. This is the sixth year of the exhibition and there are 35 artworks on display, located along 2.4 kilometres of walkway. There is significant interest in the exhibition with artists from all over the world submitting concepts for sculptures and installation. The successful submissions are on show from 7 April to 7 May at Scenic World.

Illusion by Kayo Yokoyama

Illusion by Kayo Yokoyama

The exhibition is complimented by other pieces of sculpture on show at various locations across the mountains including the Carrington Hotel at Katoomba and the Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath. There is also an exhibit of indoor sculpture by many of the contributing artists on show at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Sculpture Otherwise.

Kangaroo with a Selfie Stick and Home is Where the Heart Is by Jimmy Rix

Each year the sculptures follow a theme with a chosen medium. This year it was timber and the wide range of sculptures offers a broad interpretation with materials including fabric, recycled tents, copper, pottery and glass, to name a few. There is colour and vibrancy, along with thought-provoking pieces as well as a healthy sense of fun.

Consumption by Louis Pratt

Consumption by Louis Pratt

Some pieces have direct references to the industrial activity on the site: Scenic World is located on an old coal mining site and the railway itself follows the track used to haul coal out of the valley.

3D Webs by Louisa Magrics with La Subida Rhizome (The Rise Rhizome) by Miguel Valenzuela & Francois Limondin in background

3D Webs by Louisa Magrics with La Subida Rhizome (The Rise Rhizome) by Miguel Valenzuela & Francois Limondin in background

As the boardwalk meanders round, there is the opportunity to view some of the works from a different viewpoint, offering another perspective. It was invigorating, delightful and surprising.

Kolorhaus by Selena Seifert & Chris Wellwood

Kolorhaus by Selena Seifert & Chris Wellwood

And all of this sculpture is on show against the backdrop of a Jurassic rainforest with steep cliffs surrounding the valley. The trip down into the valley on the scenic railway was stunning, and it is understandable why this has been a major tourist drawcard for over 70 years. We returned via the scenic cableway with stunning views out to Mount Solitary as well as vistas of the Three Sisters and Orphan Rock.

It is an amazing location and an extraordinary place to enjoy some wonderful sculptures.

Have you enjoyed an artistic outing lately?

[Photo: Corridor.of.tents by Georgina Humphries; created using discarded festival tents]

 

Blue Mountains Book Settings

There are many upsides to sorting out your book collection. A definite highlight is being reunited with books that captured my attention and took me on a journey that remains vivid, years after reading them.

Amongst the stacks of books, there were some that I’ve put aside into a cluster of stories featuring the Blue Mountains. Here are a few fictional books that come to mind.

The Service of Clouds, Delia Falconer. Set in the early 1900s, this is the story of cloud photographer Harry Kitchings and Eureka Jones, a pharmacist’s assistant. I read it a couple of years before I moved here and think of it often when I catch myself looking upwards to watch clouds moving across the sky. The mural in Katoomba Street near St Hilda’s in honour of photographer Harry Phillips reminds me of it too; it is based on one of his photographs of the Bridal Veil Falls.

Dear You, Kate Llewellyn. This novel of love letters is set in Leura where the author lived for a few years. I read this when I first moved to the mountains, and remember scanning the entries for mentions of snow falling as that was one of my big concerns, being snowed in. It is a story of lust and longing and the everyday and gardens and being aware of the world in which you live.

Miles Off Course, Sulari Gentill. This is the third book in an excellent mystery series set in Australia in the 1930s featuring Rowland Sinclair. Rowly is an unconventional man from a privileged background who has bohemian friends including fellow artists and musicians. They get involved in all sorts of interesting situations which are historically accurate but with contemporary echoes. The series includes various famous and infamous people of the time in cameo roles. This book starts off in the Hydro Majestic where famous entrepreneur and hotelier Mark Foy is seeking Rowly’s input on the plans for his grand tomb which was to be carved into the grounds. This was true: it was incorporated into Foy’s will but it was ruled as not financially feasible by the court and his executors were released from any obligation to complete it.

Ash Island, Barry Maitland. This is the third installment of a trilogy featuring Harry Belltree, a Sydney detective with a troubled past and a complex network of enemies. In this final book, there is a murder early on in Blackheath, with Harry’s estranged wife Jenny the main suspect. But are things really as they seem?

Beware of the Dog, Peter Corris. My liking for Australian detective stories is apparent, and Corris is fondly regarded as The Godfather of Australian crime writing. His main character, Cliff Hardy, entered the literary scene in the 1970s and has been all over the country, and in various parts of the world, in his role as an old-school private investigator. In this installment, Hardy follows a lead up to a remote property past Mt Victoria, and the essence of this mountain village is well depicted. Hardy makes his final fictional appearance this year.

The Palace of Tears, Julian Leatherdale. This multi-generational fictional drama is based on the life of Mark Foy and his family. The author lives locally and has an extensive background in the arts and hotel management. This novel was a popular choice when it was released in time for summer reading a couple of years back and there is an interesting twist at the end. Julian has an article on the excellent Dictionary of Sydney website about the Hydro Majestic here.

Evergreen Falls, Kimberley Freeman. I came across this book by chance after listening to an interview with author on So You Want To Be A Writer. This story is set in modern times with historical flashbacks to a singular event in the 1920s which changed the course of the lives of several people. I liked the attention to detail, and the references to an old motel undergoing extensive renovations rang true as the Hydro was brought back from disrepair to its much more fashionable state.

Have you come across any books set in your town?

[Photo: detail from the mural in honour of Harry Phillips, Katoomba]

 

My I Spy: Something beginning with ‘H’

Heading towards halfway in the alphabet challenge, and there is still much to spot and spy. This is what I’ve tracked down beginning with the letter H.

Henry Lawson, Grenfell

Henry Lawson, Grenfell, NSW

Henry Lawson

I came across this rather whimsical statue of Henry Lawson in the main street of Grenfell. Lawson remains one of Australia’s best-loved poets and writers, and there are several towns throughout the central west of NSW that claim a connection with him. These include Gulgong (the association with Lawson was memorialised on a previous $10 note) and Grenfell. Both of these towns hold annual festivals with literary awards in his honour. There is a Henry Lawson Walk at Mount Victoria, and his trek from Hungerford to Bourke in the west of the state was legendary. Lawson had his personal demons but his work is still read and referenced. ‘The Drover’s Wife‘ remains a favourite of mine, and his poetry contains much humour and pathos. ‘The Loaded Dog‘ is also a great yarn.

Bird Houses at Lithgow

Bird House, Main Street, Lithgow

Houses

It is true that these are bird houses, but they are such a bright collection that I couldn’t resist. This artistic installation is one of many popping up in the streets and laneways in Lithgow. You can see the actual installation here. I love the details, no two are the same.

Heron Island

Heron Island

Heron Island

Earlier this year I had a couple of days on Heron Island with one of my oldest and dearest friends. I had no idea where it was, geographically speaking, and discovered it was on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. The island is compact, about 40 acres in total, and has a research station and resort where the amazing bird life and ocean life can be experienced up close. This photo was taken from a sunset cruise trip – very mellow. An incredible place.

Hargraves Lookout, Blackheath

Hargraves Lookout

Hargraves Lookout, Blackheath

This lookout, past the tiny town of Shipley, offers an expansive view of the Megalong Valley. There are some more panoramic shots here. If you follow the cliffs back around from Katoomba towards Blackheath, the smudge of white on the horizon is one of my favourite ‘H‘ spots – the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Have you spotted any interesting things beginning with ‘H’ this week?

You can catch up on previous alphabet posts here: A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Next? I. Pop over and see what Autumn has spotted here.

Minding Her Own Business

From mid winter till late spring, the Blackheath History Forum holds fortnightly talks on a wide range of Australian history topics. The talks are usually held at the Blackheath Primary School hall, the backdrop featuring six stunning scenes in mixed media, highlighting some of the local views and including a vibrant red waratah.

The introduction to the talk outlined how history leaves an imprint on the present, and the importance of understanding the role of history as it shapes the present and our future. There was also commentary on the importance of trade and commerce: this isn’t always a focus of conventional history texts but it provides us with our daily needs and has much to tell us regarding what matters at a particular point in time. This weekend’s talk was given by Dr Catherine Bishop on the topic of colonial businesswomen in Sydney, with the focus on the period from the 1830s up until the 1880s.

Dr Catherine Bishop is an engaging and often humourous speaker, bringing to life aspects of everyday existence from over 150 years ago in a relatable manner. The topic, colonial businesswomen of Sydney, formed part of her doctoral thesis. The thesis also covered their counterparts in New Zealand.

There are no memorials to the colonial businesswomen of Sydney, despite the important role that they played. A common perception is that women were engaged in trades primarily to supplement the household income, to help provide for children, often in the absence of a male breadwinner. But this is only a fragment of the reality of the times. Women used their skills across a wide range of industries to create businesses which were sometimes later subsumed into their husband’s name upon marriage.

Bishop cited several businesses that continued to trade over decades, and sometimes evolved into large family businesses across generations. The starting point for her research was the Mitchell Library with its large collection of diaries and letters. Despite an extensive search, there was barely a record of any businesswomen of this period to be found. Bishop had to look further afield. Using a wide range of records including Trove, insolvency files at the State Records, Westpac Archives (bank account registers) and other tools such as the Sands Directories, Bishop has been able to unearth a rich chapter of colonial history.

The scope of businesses owned and operated by women was extensive. Bishop used Castlereagh Street in Sydney as an example, and women were running various businesses including bonnet cleaning, butcher shops, a cab operator, dressmakers and a hotelier in this street alone. Other businesses included milliners, fruit sellers, umbrella makers, grocers, a servant registry office, boarding and lodging houses, pawnbrokers and a haberdashery. You can get a taste of this in Bishop’s entry in the Dictionary of Sydney under Women of Pitt Street 1858.

The talk included snippets of the lives of several women who not only survived but thrived whilst operating their own businesses. This is seldom reflected in their obituaries, where women are usually described as wife of X, mother of Y, mother of daughters who married well, rather than as a successful woman in her own right.

For me the talk was a starting point for further reading, including Bishop’s book Minding Her Own Business: Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney. I am particularly intrigued by Elizabeth Cadman (wife of John Cadman of Cadmans Cottage) and some of the female proprietors of The Belgravia Hotel, which was later bought by Mark Foy and included in the extensive grounds of the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

You can find out about upcoming history talks here.

[Photo: front of the Blackheath Public School hall]