Flesh after Fifty

Flesh-After-Fifty-Ruth-Maddison-LolaFollowing a year-long hiatus due to Covid-19, an exhibition celebrating positive images of women, Flesh after Fifty will be presented from 7 March – 11 April 2021 at the Abbotsford Convent’s Laundries building.

Flesh After Fifty is an artistic examination of older women in art. Through the mediums of photography, video, sculpture, painting and prints the exhibition celebrates positive images of women over the age of 50 who have ‘lived a bit’ and have the bodies to prove it.

At the cornerstone of the exhibition is 500 Strong, a collection of nude images of Victorian women photographed by celebrated Melbourne photographer Ponch Hawkes. This ambitious project was 12 months in the making, setting up studios across Victoria in 2018, to capture images of “every” woman over the age of 50.

Flesh after Fifty also brings to the fore some of Victoria’s most renowned artists who will challenge and explore older female body imagery and perceptions through newly commissioned artworks.

Artists include sculptor Penny Byrne, interdisciplinary artist Megan Evans, Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta, BoonWurrung/Wemba Wemba woman, curator, and artist Maree Clarke, installation artists Hotham Street Ladies, sculptors Sam Jinks and Niki Koutouzis, sound artist Claire Lambe, artist and academic Patrick Pound and multi-disciplinary artist Catherine Bell in collaboration with figurative painter Cathy Staughton.

In addition to the commissioned art, Curators Jane Scott and Kirsty Grant selected a further 10 artists whose art reflects older women’s issues and concerns utilising contemporary perspectives and techniques including video and text-based art.

Artists include photographer Janina Green, collage artist Deborah Kelly, photographer Ruth Maddison, sculptor Greg Taylor and figurative painter and sculptor Peter Wegner.

Initiator of the project Professor Martha Hickey, Director, Women’s Gynaecology Research Centre at the Royal Women’s Hospital & Deputy Head, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, MDHS, University of Melbourne, whose research and clinical work is focused on healthy ageing in women.

“Older women are in need of the opportunity to celebrate their aging bodies and young women are in desperate need of positive images of older women to alleviate the fear and misgivings about healthy aging,” said Professor Hickey

“In a society swamped with images, high value is placed on physical appearance and an association between attractiveness and youth, particularly for women. Changing attitudes towards women’s bodies, particularly older women is at the core of this exhibition,” said Professor Hickey.

A series of forums, events and essays by key academics, artists and community leaders exploring the politics and social impact around the construction of images of older women, addressing this topic in the pursuit of a new visual dynamic and appreciation of the older female form will accompany the exhibition.

The title of this exhibition comes from a quote by the renowned American photo-journalist, Eve Arnold (1912-2012), who photographed Hollywood star Joan Crawford on several occasions.

The first, in 1956, was on assignment for the Woman’s Home Companion magazine, part of the publicity campaign for Autumn Leaves, a film in which Crawford (then in her early fifties) played a spinster wooed by a man many years her junior.

Arnold recalled: ‘The first time I met Joan Crawford she took off her clothes, stood in front of me nude and insisted I photograph her’, adding, ‘sadly, something happens to flesh after fifty.’

Flesh after Fifty 
The Laundry Room – Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Hellier Street, Abbotsford
Exhibition: 7 March – 11 April 2021
Free entry

For more information, visit: www.fleshafterfifty.com for details.

Image: Lola (detail) – photo by Ruth Maddison

Note: Flesh after Fifty will follow all Victorian Government guidelines regarding Covid-19 restrictions and recommendations to ensure all visitors are safe. Click here for details.