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Karla Dickens

Karla Dickens

Deeply Rooted (2023)


Karla Dickens

From The Curator

Deeply Rooted looks at ecofeminism and matriarchal protection of the ‘traumascapes’ of country. These works critically address how landscapes are impacted by colonisation, and the way in which they imprint into our spirits, and the role of women and the mother archetype. Looking at the interconnection of women and the earth, Deeply Rooted embraces the feminine and celebrates life givers and the caretakers of the mother figure, the faces embedded in the roots bear witness to the destruction and pillaging of the land and they are representative of those with the knowledge and responsibilities to protect her. In addressing the profound nature of environmental knowledge held by First Nation women and broader communities Karla is also highlighting the environmental politics and importance of culture and spirit.

Artist Statement

‘Deeply Rooted’ by Karla Dickens, 2023

The traveller cruises up the highway
deep in music, thought, and smells of leafless decay
nature calls the ute to stop
slowly, quietly, not to disturb the sleeping
shadows dart, energy moves, spirits awake

Be still, hold and greet the old ones
crude knots embedded in the fingers of limbs
lanky branches hover over and around you
like a snake vine, twisted whispers, hypnosis
messages given as the engine warms

The road creeps on with reminders of widow-makers
deeply rooted spirits anchored to this journey
fuelling a power, growing deeper in invisibility
impatiently waiting to be seen, heard, and felt
the undergrowth towering with a lush death

Skeletons of ghost gums watch as you drive by
they hold an advantaged viewpoint of your intentions
like Santa, they know your deeds
they shake as cotton, sheep, and cattle suck hope from life
embracing riverbeds as they crumble

Barren ancient trees see you along for many years
givers of shade and knowledge
gnarly buried roots working dark magic
holding and watching what lives on the surface
subconsciously knocking on your future

Akin to unseen spirits in wooden trunks
roots hold potency, fruiting dear life
bearing witness on black trails of underbrush
the living dead sing softly
at times they protest with screams of existence

Deadwood holds the potential for wildfires
ready to roar with inflamed rage as you flee
the veterans have seen others roped, tied, and cut down
survived pests, diseases, and imposed droughts
no dead weight in the struggle to exist

After centuries of uprooting and raping they remain
lurking in the dark with callous bark
feeding and speaking through disfigured landscapes
holding the hands of knowing ancestors
they linger long

Artwork Description

The artwork involves four tree roots that are one meter wide by approximately 1 meter high, they are clustered within the space and about 3 meters apart. The tree roots are upended, sawn apart, and sitting on low flat trolleys that are a grey/silver colour. The roots were collected from the artist’s home region in Lismore after the devastating flooding of 2022 and have been created into sculptural forms with found objects and items from Karla’s collection. These reclaimed items include rusted saws, petrol pump handles, scissors, 1950s kitsch sculptural faces of Aboriginal people, metal irons from the early 19th century, rusted metal pieces and wooden lettering that says memorial. The colours that feature in the works are brown, rusted orange and black.

Karla Dickens creating her work Deeply Rooted. Courtesy of the artist.

Artwork Credits

Deeply Rooted (2023)
Karla Dickens (Wiradjuri)

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