Jane Whiteley’s work says she is a lady writer (2010, worn cotton sheet, machine and hand stitch) is currently on show in Frayed.
Growing up with mental illness as experienced by both my aunt and her sister- my mother- my own childhood access to cloth gave me a vehicle for expression, insight and giving shape to my experience. Last October, my friend Emily Kate Mignacca undertook ZIP IT, a sponsored 24 hours of silence where people donated their voice to raise awareness of mental health issues in Australia. It took place on World Mental Health Day. She described this experience, how by the end of the day there was a ‘banking up’ of her thoughts in her head, with no outlet for their expression. Being trapped inside your mind can be a terrifying and isolating experience. I am reminded of my beloved Auntie Marj. In the 1960s she was diagnosed as having schizophrenia, as it was then called. As a young child I remember seeing her looking terror-stricken on several occasions, but when I think of Auntie I think of her shiny brown eyes, her red dress at Christmas, sparkly jewelry, lipstick and talc, powder compact, and boiled sweets, jam doughnuts and pink bunrounds, stockings and handbags, permed hair and rollers, reading and knitting, singing and swearing, throwing her head back as she laughed, her flowery frocks in summer and the three pretty pills she used to take every morning at breakfast- one pink, one yellow and one blue. Clearly there was a lot going on inside her head that was not immediately apparent, but as a child I just saw ‘Auntie’.