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Joe Rootsey

Queensland Aboriginal Painter 1918-63

written by Diane Hafner, Bruce McLean

Queensland Art Gallery | ISBN 9781921503146

Paperback – 80 pages


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Joe Alimindjin Rootsey was one of the first Indigenous people in Queensland to be recognised as a contemporary artist. His paintings were a window onto another Australia – his own country on Cape York. Joe Rootsey’s career was highly unusual for the time. An inveterate sketcher, his artistic learnings were discovered by medical social worker Joan Innes Reid during a period of hospitalisation in north Queensland in the mid 1950s. In 1958, he began classes at Brisbane’s Central Technical College, then the leading art school in Queensland. While he wanted ‘to make something of it’, his art career was shadowed by ill health and government intervention. Despite enjoying some popularity in the mid twentieth century, Rootsey’s work had fallen into relative obscurity until its inclusion in the Queensland Art Gallery’s exhibition ‘Story Place: Indigenous Art of Cape York and the Rainforest’ in 2003. Published by the Queensland Art Gallery for the exhibition ‘Joe Rootsey: Queensland Aboriginal Artist 1918-63’, this richly illustrated publication recognises Rootsey’s importance for Queensland’s art and cultural history. Essays by curator Bruce McLean and anthropologist Dr Diane Hafner explore, respectively, Joe Rootsey’s life as a stockman and his career as an artist, and the social and political conditions prevailing at the time.

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