22 April 2021

Pandemic inspires the Sapphire Coast's art of kindness

| Lottie Twyford
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Three women in front of a textile artwork

Joanne Pascall, Mirjam Aigner and Janine McDermott are the brains and busy hands behind Project 120 – We Care. Photo: Joanne Pascall.

Acclaimed Bega-based artist Mirjam Aigner knew she wanted to do something in the wake of the devastating Black Summer bushfires, but it took another disaster – this time on a global scale – to work out what.

It was during the COVID-19 lockdown when the NSW and Victorian border was shut that Ms Aigner came up with the idea of creating 120 artworks for the community of Mallacoota reflecting the 120 homes and buildings destroyed in Mallacoota in the fires.

She soon realised the task required more help and enlisted the help of two friends – Janine McDermott and Joanne Pascall.

Mrs Pascall said she immediately agreed to jump on board when she heard about Ms Aigner’s project.

“For me personally, it was a form of therapy that I didn’t realise I needed. To do every single stitch, I had to reflect and take some time to make every piece personal.

“I was grateful to have not lost my home, but I do have friends who did over the course of last summer,” Mrs Pascall said.

Now, the three have completed their mammoth project and it is ready for exhibition – each creating 10cm x 10cm individual pieces from textiles.

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All of the works are unique.

The theme running through Joanne’s work is leaves as she has vivid memories of burning gum leaves falling from the sky during the fires.

“Every night, I worked slowly away at my pieces and I was encouraged to reflect and take a moment to heal,” she said.

Janine has included words like love throughout her art works to serve as glimpses of colour or hope.

Miriam’s works are embedded with dragonflies, bees and signs of nature throughout, as well as layers to give the work dimension.

Many of the textiles had been donated by an international friend of Ms Aigner’s, the acclaimed Texan-based textile artist Jane Dunnewold.

Ms Dunnewold took charge of coordinating donations of textiles from her US community, largely through Facebook.

These arrived quickly as many around the world looked for ways to support Australians after the summer from hell.

All 120 pieces of art have now been framed thanks to some generous donations from Ikea, and they will be on display from Friday 23 April onwards as part of Project 120 – We Care.

Mrs Pascall contacted Ikea CEO Jan Gardberg directly, who was keen to get involved and ended up working closely with the Canberra store which coordinated delivery of all 120 frames.

At the completion of the exhibition, the artworks will be lovingly wrapped and gifted to locals by the gallery.

You can see the exhibition at Mallacoota Artspace, 66 Maurice Avenue, Mallacoota.

Opening night: 5 pm Friday 23 April
Gallery opening hours: 10 am – 4 pm daily. Exhibition ends Sunday 23 May
Cost: Free entry
See their website for more information.

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