Isabel Ricketts with two of her paintings inspired by women's handwork, Tender Dreams and Flowering.
Isabel Ricketts with two of her paintings inspired by women's handwork, Tender Dreams and Flowering. Belinda Scott

Packing life into exhibition at Coffs Harbour regional gallery

NOT only have her paintings for The Fragility of Dreams consumed her working hours for the past 18 months, these works contain within them the hopes and dreams, longings and creative endeavours of generations of women.

The artist, who celebrated her 70th birthday last year, used her paternal grand- mother's quilt, with its soft cut-velvet texture and art deco patterns as the jumping off point for a series of pictures which also incorporates patterns from women's handwork - knitted layettes; delicate smocking; cross stitch mats, lacy doilies and embroidery patterns of flowers and leaves, scallops and French knots.

"I always loved the quilt - as a child it was so exotic and fascinating and so different to what was in our house."

The softened many- washed browns, greys and creams of the old quilt and other quilts in the Coffs Harbour Museum collection 0its s recur in the pictures, as do images of Isabel's own childhood.

"I am very interested in ordinary people's lives," Isabel said.

"We hear a lot about celebrities, but how ordinary people lived their lives, we have no idea."

She said the years of patient, hidden work by women rearing large families with little money went unrecognised.

Isabel can look back to days when, for most people, families were large, incomes small and being a woman meant being subjected to very strict rules and harsh judgements on her housekeeping, child raising, cooking, cleaning and general demeanour.

She said she saw these women expressing their creativity in sewing, quilting, embroidery and flower gardening.

Her paintings link her own experience with not just the woman of her own family and the Sydney suburb of Lakemba where she grew up, but with the women of Coffs Harbour, where she now lives.

Also on show during July and August is an exhibition of the work of Coffs Harbour designer and artist Arno Thoener. His boldly coloured geometric designs gained worldwide popularity in the 1960s; remain in circulation and are now seeing a revival of interest.

Completing the trio of shows are 730 tiny paintings of clothes worn by people featured in the news during a two-year period, painted by artist Maryanne Coutts.

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