Every two years, a huge outdoor art show is held right on the beachfront of Townsville. I am very fortunate to have been in Townsville during a year that this event was held, because it truly was a cite to see. I was told by many people that visiting it twice, once at day and anther during the night was a requirement. So, after spending the day on Maggie Island Feeling like the Little Mermaid, I left the island before sunset t make it back to the Strand in time to see the final night of the Strand Ephemera.
I showed up just in time to catch the last guided tour. During the half hour walk, we only saw a fraction of the 31 pieces that were on display. After the tour, I had much more to explore on my own, but I started off by checking out the community drum circle that was led by a JCU staff member.Despite being at the other side of the Strand, I knew exactly where to go to find the group by simply following the sound of the beats. The drum circle was fantastic. It seemed as though a mix of everyone was there participating, either by playing a drum, cowbell, clapping their hands, or simply using a water bottle with rocks in it. It did not matter what people were using to play along, the sound of joy and fun was coming from everyone. The leader would play a beat, and then the crowd would repeat. Then, the leader would point at individual people to have them play a beat for everyone else to echo. It was impossible not to smile as you saw everyone participating. After I had clapped along for quite a while, I began again to wander from art piece to art piece.
Not all of the pieces are lit at night, but the ones that were really did shine. It was quite apparent why so many people told me to come both at day and night. After I wandered through from end to end, I caught the bus back to Uni and got some sleep before returning early the next morning.
This morning I left Uni on the first bus to town. I started my day by wandering through the Sunday morning market of Flinders Street. It was great to get to see. There were people selling hand-crafted wood work, photography, sewn garments, and jewelry, along with fresh produce and many other things. It was also nice to explore a few more streets in town that I had not been to yet. There are many very old and historic buildings around Townsville that I got to learn a bit about as well from wall plaques. There is a building called the Atkinson & Powell building that of course made me smile and think of Judy Atkinson from church.As I walked along the Strand again by day light, I could tell that there were many pieces that I had not been able to see the night before. Additionally, many of the pieces that I had seen looked completely different during the day.
Some of the information about the art pieces below (such as materials used, Artists’ names, and back-ground information about the exhibits) is from the Strand 2017 Ephemera guide book that I was given on the tour. However, most of the following are my own thoughts and insights on the wonderful pieces that I got to see.
There was an incredible amount of diversity among all of the art pieces on display. Many were created using found and recycled materials. And lots of the pieces looked as though they had always been on the Strand, such as these pieces below. The left and middle images are of the same installment. It was a larger-than life sized replica of the sand crabs that live on the beaches and create little balls of sand. On the right was a giant crab made out of discarded plastic and ceramic lanterns made by a local art class from Pimlico State High School.
Another neat piece made out of recycled items was the piece below by Alison McDonald. Made out of thousands of recycled SIM card holders, when a flash was used at night, this piece reflected back brightly. I also found the sculptures below to be quite interesting. They were made out of various soft, clear plastics and packing tape. There were even more on display than shown in my photos below, but these two were my favorite. They collectively were called The Gatherings and were created by Sue Tilley. My favorite art exhibit created out of recycled materials was this display below. Called Billy Carts “Cruzin” the Strand, these pieces were created from steel, brass, copper, hardwood, and rope by Lance Seadon as a throw back to his childhood in the 50s. I loved the cart in front on left photo that had a sheep skull as a hood ornament. The most colorful art piece made out of re-claimed materials was the piece in the top left photo below. It was called Earth Fish and was made by Daniel Wallwork. It was made out of plastic car bumpers, believe it or not. I did not even recognize them as such until I read it out of the guide book. The white plaster and copper piece above was made by Harriet Geater-Johnson. Although I personally do not find this piece to be the most visually striking, I love what it represents. Each of the ceramic animals in the museum case were either very vulnerable or critically endangered Australian species. And the adorable red flowers on the right were made by India Collins. Each flower also had a solar powered light that was lit at night. This piece was called Urban Blooms.
I do not consider myself to be an art enthusiast, but I do love art that sends a clear message. My favorite piece made out of reclaimed materials set a very strong message about the declining health of the oceans and the result of mass pollution. Called This Heart Within Me Burns, this sculpture was created by Tanya Coventry and students from Bowen State High School. The pieces of found drift wood were used to create skeletons of seabirds with stomachs full of plastics found in the ocean and washed up on shores. The birds, suspended in the air by wires, floated around a morbid mobile of sea plastics. While this piece has a very serious message to send, I found it to be quite beautiful.
There were also many exhibits along the Strand that were interactive. Being able to interact and, in an essence, become a temporary part of the piece created a sense of intrigue and connection for me. One piece that was fun to interact with was this mirror sculpture called Your Altered Gaze Returned. It was made by Vanessa Stanley. This piece brought me back to memories of county-fair fun houses with crazy mirrors. Another fantastic interactive art display on the Strand, that would take first place for fun and creative if I got to select one, would be the Dirty Car Art. That’s right, there were sandy cars parked right on the beach that art-show goers could doodle on themselves. As soon as I approached, I heard my mom’s voice in my head telling me not to write on the car because the dust would scratch it. Then, as I lifted my hand and started doodling a design for Simon and I, I felt as though I needed to look over my shoulder to make sure my mom wasn’t watching me disobey her. Sometimes, it is fun to break the rules.
Beside the public’s creations of decorated dirty cars, there was an artist’s collection of several incredibly intricate…. What’s the word…? They weren’t carvings, they weren’t paintings, they weren’t sketches, so, perhaps they were etches? Perhaps that describes them best. There was a collection of sand-etches masterfully made by Scott Wade. My favorite was the one with the snorkeler and sea turtle. Anther fun and interactive piece was a giant puzzle-sculpture created by Carla Gottgens. It is called Portal and I do not think any other name could have fit it better. As people shifted the cubes around and used various sides, different scenes would be created. Some of them were very post-apocalyptic/alien inspired. There was one piece out of the entire 31 displays that I would have happily taken home with me, if I could. It was this metal octopus, appropriately named Giant Pacific Octopus. It was created by Cameron Rushton, a Townsville based artist who specializes in creating realistic animals out of steal. I loved the textures and details created so intricately out of metal. The top right photo is of a piece on the Strand that is a permanent installation.
Another metal piece that made me laugh was created by John Heard and was called They are Biting Well on Money Today. The man inside the fish was reaching out not towards safety but towards a bill dangling off the fish’s lure. I think this piece was about people over exploiting fisheries for money without regard to sustainability. The largest piece on display were the sails below created by Marion Gamemers and Lynnette Griffiths. Called Ancient Marinere…are those her sails?, it was inspired by a poem written in 1834 about life, death, nature and the seas. This piece received my vote for the People’s Choice Award and I am sure it received many other votes as well. Now, obviously the photos below are not of an art piece on display, but I sure would love to borrow this rig for a few days! This adventure-ready vehicle was parked along the Strand and with a big for sale sign on it. When I glanced at it, I am sure I saw my name written right on it. Too bad I have school bills to pay…. The final pieces of the Ephemera that really stood out to me were the ones that required viewing twice- once and day and once at night.
The dual sphere-shaped sculture below on the bottom left is one that I preferred at night, compared to at day. It was created out of plastic cups by Mjryan Bennett and was called Ebb and Flow. The tall, white sculpture below reminded me of long-faced figures and once I read the title, I learned my impression was fitting. Titled Strangers in the Wind, this piece was created by Tom Emmett. My favorite night sculpture was by far piece that attracted the biggest crowds each evening. The CLOUD has traveled the world. It was also very interactive. Created by Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett out of 6,000 light bulbs, this display featured hundreds of silver chains that resembled rain drops. A gentle pull on the chain would cause the lights to flicker on or off. With dozens of people experiencing this piece at any given time throughout the night, it was always changing and illuminating people’s faces with both light and smiles. The giant crab below is called none other than The Crab. This is the one piece that I would choose to have stay on the Strand permanently if I could. It was made by Joy Heylen and was actually silver-colored at the start of the week. The salty breeze quickly took to oxidizing the steel skin of this crab during the week of the Ephemera.The fact that The Crab was weathering throughout the week truly underscores the essence of what the Strand Ephemera is. The word ephemera by definition describes something that is created for the purpose of being temporary. It is a word used to describe things that are enjoyed and used for only a short period of time.
While it is unfortunate that not all of these 31 incredible pieces could remain on the Strand, all beautiful things come to an end eventually. I am so thankful that I got to be in Townsville during a year that the Ephemera happened to be on. It was a wonderful community event to attend and I would recommend anyone to see it if they happen to be in Townsville when it happens again.