The frontier life of nineteenth century rural Australia is where Gria Shead finds her muse. She looks to marginalised people from our colonial era to poke holes in the myth-making and history-shaping that figures like Ned Kelly have inspired.
Kelly’s own sister, Kate Kelly, serves as a subject for much of Shead’s work, demonstrating the lack of recognition women receive for their role in pioneering a young Australia.
Armed with a jewel-tone palette, Shead paints Kate Kelly in the iconic Ned Kelly helmet. On a man, the helmet is armour but on a woman it is also a barrier between them and their unyielding subjugation.
This resistance is front and centre in Shead’s Honi soit qui mal y pense where an armed Kate Kelly skulks across the landscape while veiled in her outlaw brother’s armour.
Her defiance is just as relevant to deconstructing inequality as it is to its intended deconstruction of mythology.