Museum of Brisbane

Artist Profile: Carol McGregor

  • Learn more about artist Carol McGregor

Artist Profile: Carol McGregor

Carol McGregor is a Brisbane-based artist and academic of both Wathaurung (Victoria) and Scottish heritage. She has exhibited her work in group and solo exhibitions throughout Australia, as well as internationally, and is also an active curator and writer.

Carol’s artistic output focuses on forms of cultural heritage: illuminating histories, narratives and techniques via the collaborative practice of making contemporary possum skin cloaks. She uses mixed media to render these stories, utilising not only possum skins, but cotton, ochre, ash, resin and binder.


Banner: Carol McGregor (Hastings, New Zealand b. 1961), Bush tucker (detail) 2017, possum skins, cotton, ochre, ash, resin and binder. Museum of Brisbane Collection. | Image: Carol McGregor (Hastings, New Zealand b. 1961) with Bush tucker 2017, possum skins, cotton, ochre, ash, resin and binder. Museum of Brisbane Collection.

Image: Carol McGregor (Hastings, New Zealand b. 1961) created in collaboration with Brisbane Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, Bush tucker 2017, possum skins, cotton, ochre, ash, resin and binder. Museum of Brisbane Collection.

The creation of this cloak involved a collaboration between the artist and Brisbane Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members. Learn more about the stories of food, hunting and gathering shared on this cloak.

EXPLORE THE CLOAK

Carol has discussed the meaningful origin of researching and making these cloaks in reference to her own family history:

I began making contemporary possum skin cloaks as a tangible way to connect to my Aboriginal great grandmother, Annie. Traditionally, these cloaks were personal, inscribed with images or patterns to signify where you are from, your place, totems and tribal stories. [i]

Carol describes her constant and unwavering aim:

Reclaim and connect to cultural expression; creating objects as vehicles of remembering that give physical form to shadows of the past; ‘un-silencing’ our stories to make the invisible visible; and working towards a more richly informed future. [ii]

Carol’s Doctoral thesis explores the traditional practice of possum skin cloak-making; it is titled Art of the Skins: unsilencing and remembering (2019). An exhibition of the same name, Art of the Skins, was held at the State Library of Queensland in 2016. In preparation for this exhibition, more than 50 Indigenous community workshops were staged over a two-year period. The artist continues to facilitate these workshops regularly, in order to engage with new audiences, transfer knowledge and keep the tradition of possum skin cloak-making alive.

Customarily, the possum skin cloak tradition evolves throughout a person’s lifetime; as the owner ages and develops, a new skin is attached which records their personal narratives. Only a very small number of historical animal skin cloaks are held in permanent collections worldwide.

Carol’s artworks have been displayed at Museum of Brisbane as part of Tastes Like Sunshine (2017) and New Woman (2019). One of her cloaks, titled Bush tucker (2017), a collaborative work of 23 members of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, forms an important part of the Museum of Brisbane Collection. The cloak consists of 20 different sections detailing the traditional food sources of bush tucker – both flora and fauna, gathered from land and sea – that these various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups consider vital. The methods of collecting and hunting, and the subsequent sharing of these native resources are sacred to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

 

 


[i] Carol McGregor, National Portrait Gallery. Accessed May 7, 2020.
[ii] Ibid.
 
 
Museum of Brisbane acknowledges the contribution of:
Rayleen Burns (Yuwaalaraay)
Jacinta Jayne Bligh (Wakka Wakka, Cobble Cobble, Kullali)
Joyce Watson and Rani Grace Watson Carmichael (Waanyi)
John Long (Yugarabul)
Jason Murphy (Jinibara)
Dylan Mooney (Yuibera)
Ailsa Walsh-Davidson (Lardil, Kullili, Yuggera)
Melinda and Nurdon Serico (Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi)
Dylan Sarra (Bunda Tirabilang)
Tamika Hill-Williams (Kabi Kabi/Waka Waka)
Kyra Mancktelow (Quandamooka)
Carol McGregor (Wathaurung, artist, facilitator)
Tracey Ah Sam (Ah Sam family)
Laurie Nilsen (Mandandanji)
Deb Taylor (Gamilaraay)
Dominique Chen (Kamilaroi)
Hal Oram (Muninjali, Jetimarala, Kanolu)
Dianne Hall (Gamilaraay)
Melissa K. Stannard (Gamillaroi)
Haylee Williamson (Jarowair)
and Harmony Otrupcek (Kamilaroi)