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Minna Gilligan's 'Rhinestone Cowgirl'

Art

It was Madonna who initially prompted the thoughts behind Melbourne-based artist Minna Gilligan’s latest exhibition.

Vibrant and unapologetically sparkly, ‘Rhinestone Cowgirl’ (at Daine Singer Gallery) examines ideas of self reinvention, inspired, in part, by the Queen of Pop – as well as the artist’s own desire for metamorphosis.

5th February, 2018

‘Star Spangled Rodeo’ alongside ‘Rhinestone Cowgirl’, by Minna Gilligan Photo courtesy of Daine Singer.

Anytown USA by Minna Gilligan. Photo courtesy of Daine Singer.

‘Once I Was Poison Ivy, But Now I’m Your Daisy’, By Minna Gilligan. Photo courtesy of Daine Singer.

‘Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart’, by Minna Gilligan. Photo courtesy of Daine Singer.

Basically, I just hope people can come and see Rhinestone Cowgirl! I want people of all ages and backgrounds to feel welcome at my shows, because I don’t believe art should be exclusive or only for people of certain education levels. It’s a free exhibition to attend, and is a super friendly environment,’ says Minna. Photo courtesy of Daine Singer.

‘The Merv Griffin Show’, by Minna Gilligan. Photo courtesy of Daine Singer.

‘Younger Now’, by Minna Gilligan. Photo courtesy of Daine Singer.

Sally Tabart
Monday 5th February 2018

I want people of all ages and backgrounds to feel welcome at my shows… I don’t believe art should be exclusive.’ – Minna Gilligan. 

Reflecting on childhood observations of Madonna’s many transformations (mainly, the 2000 cowgirl album Music), Melbourne artist Minna Gilligan hopes to shed some shiny, disco-ball light on the idea of reinventing oneself. ‘I seek to make a comment on the inauthentic but necessary nature of image and reputation reinvention,’ explains Minna, ‘particularly as a woman who is vaguely present in a small but public online sphere.’

After dealing with ‘kind of a bumpy year’ in 2017, in some ways, Minna’s interest in this idea of reinvention also came from her own desire to metamorphosise. ‘I wanted to outdo myself, to make an entrance,’ she explains of the lead up to ‘Rhinestone Cowgirl,’ ‘a reinvention was the way in which I could put this into words, to tell the world: “I made it through the wilderness” and now, hey, this is the ‘new me’ on the other side of that journey.’

Often adorned with flowers, rainbows, glitter, scrapbook-style collages and selfies, Minna Gilligan’s work is more complex and layered than might be obvious at first glance. The artist interrogates her subject matter with academic rigour.  ‘As I investigated further concepts of reinvention I obviously realised it’s not an altogether sincere move’, she explains ‘in its commercialised sense, [reinvention] is reserved pretty much for the privileged who can adopt and discard different identities without consequence.’  

Minna deeply values the sense of community and loyalty she shares with her dedicated online fans (43k Instagram followers and counting), but the combination of her glossy, colourful, aesthetic and large online audience often leaves conservative minds challenging her merit. ‘It is difficult for some to acknowledge there is an intelligent being behind my use of colour, selfies and outfits,’ Minna explains, ‘I continue as I do because I want to challenge this notion and insist on being respected for my thoughts and ideas, as well as my clothing choices and skills with red lipstick.’

With 12 solo exhibitions behind her, three published books, and work held by the National Gallery of Australia as well as the National Library of Australia, we can assure you, Minna Gilligan is the real deal.

‘Rhinestone Cowgirl’
February 7th – March 3rd
Daine Singer Gallery
Basement 325 Flinders Lane

You should read Minna’s insightful exhibition essay here (it’s really good!)

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First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net