UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 02 Spring 15 Library
Tom Cogill
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

Making the Spirit Visible: Ricardo Idagi’s Artist Residency

Create with the Kluge-Ruhe!

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal art.

For three weeks last fall, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection offered first-hand insight into Indigenous Australian culture through a residency with celebrated sculptor Ricardo Idagi. Now based in Melbourne, Idagi is originally from Mer (Murray Island), located in the Torres Strait off the northern coast of Queensland, Australia. The highlight of his residency was his participation in Professor Bill Bennett’s sculpture courses, in which he taught students the complex techniques used in making ceremonial dari, the traditional Torres Strait headdress. Students were then encouraged to use these techniques to make non-traditional headdresses of their own design. Idagi also gave a number of talks at U.Va. and in the community, including a presentation about his ceramics practice at City Clay workshop and a community mask-making workshop at McGuffey Art Center.

The residency was a companion to an exhibition of his work, titled Gurari – Saltwater Drinker, which was on view at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection for the duration of the fall 2014 semester. Using a variety of mixed media materials such as raffia, feathers, beer cans and wrought iron, Idagi’s work represents his very personal response to current political and social issues faced by Torres Strait Islanders, such as racial discrimination, alcoholism and other legacies of colonialism in the region. “There is so much to learn from Indigenous artists,” said Kluge-Ruhe director Margo Smith. “While these are things we are teaching every day at Kluge-Ruhe, we are translating, really. To hear it from the artists themselves is just an amazing opportunity for our students.”

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