You are here


Breasts, Bodies, Canvas: Central Desert Art As Experience

Breasts, Bodies, Canvas: Central Desert Art As Experience

Breasts, Bodies, Canvas reinterprets Central Desert art. These paintings are not just aesthetically pleasing, they evoke crucial bodily sensations and sensibilities. Anthropologist Jennifer Loureide Biddle focuses on what this art 'does' rather than what it 'means'. Breaking a generation of scholarship that has identified these works as traditional symbolic representations of country, Biddle opens up a new path for understanding these works as material forces of culture, sentiment and politics. The encounter with Aboriginal art is understood to be a sensuous engagement with cultural difference as a lived reality. This book examines the rise of female Aboriginal artists, and the tactile and sensory activities involved in painting. Biddle argues that the recent success of women painters points to a certain 'feminisation' of country, Ancestor and Dreaming that makes this art literally enlivened and enlivening.

"Anthropologist Jennifer Biddle, who spent some two decades with Warlpiri Aboriginal communities in Central Australia conducting her research, joins the long list of scholars who have sought to grapple with these questions in her recently published Breasts, Bodies, Canvas: Central Desert Art as Experience...this is one of the most original and compelling books on Aboriginal art I have read for a long time; and one of the most suggestive attempts to account for and, in its better moments, actually to enact the revolution in Australian life and culture that Aboriginal art represents." Rex Butler, ABC Radio National

"She attempts to explain how these abstract dot paintings emanate ancestral power, and why they are such powerful works of art. It is a book about what we encounter when we encounter Aboriginal art." Elizabeth Burns Coleman, Monash University

"A unique book that combines an appreciation of Aboriginal art with contemporary theoretical concerns. On one level it is a beautifully illustrated book about contemporary Aboriginal art from the Central Desert of Australia, which has become immensely popular in the world's art markets. At the same time the book will draw on various theoretical considerations as it attempts to define, explain and understand this art." State Library of New South Wales


UNSW Press

Published date

November, 2007