Totem I (black - the get laid totem)
07 Apr 1939 - 15 Jun 1992
"Sculpture is totemic, phallic, something that grows upwards from the earth or from the gallery floor." Brett Whiteley
As a young boy, Whiteley was fascinated with bird's eggs and nests, often collecting them and persuading others to collect for him as well. The egg - a recurring element in his work - is traditionally a symbol of fertility. Brancusi considered it the perfect form. Whiteley has evoked a sense of celebration by exaggerating size and scale to create this fantasy totem. He was also fascinated by the traditional burial poles of northern Australian aborigines which he saw at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In them he saw a sense of growing upwards from the ground.
A different vision, Brett Whiteley Studio exhibition catalogue, 1998
The get laid totem
Black Totem Egg
fibreglass and wood
284.5 x 170.2 x 61.0 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased by the New South Wales State Government 1994, transferred to the Gallery 1998
© Wendy Whiteley
Shown in 11 exhibitions
Birds and animals, Robin Gibson Gallery, Darlinghurst, 10 Apr 1979–05 May 1979
Life and death, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, Collingwood, 28 May 1983–18 Jun 1983
Birds (1988), The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 05 Jul 1988–19 Jul 1988
Brett Whiteley Art & Life (1995-1996):
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 16 Sep 1995–19 Nov 1995
- Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin 13 Dec 1995–28 Jan 1996
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 22 Feb 1996–08 Apr 1996
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 09 May 1996–16 Jun 1996
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 02 Jul 1996–26 Aug 1996
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 18 Sep 1996–17 Nov 1996
A Different Vision - Brett Whiteley Sculptures (1998), The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 04 Apr 1998–23 Aug 1998
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Whiteley and the third dimension, The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 19 Jul 2008–15 Mar 2009
Brett Whiteley: Nature, The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 04 Oct 2013–18 May 2014
Whiteley on the Water, Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle, 02 Nov 2013–23 Jan 2014
Brett Whiteley: West of the Divide:
- Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba 26 Sep 2014–30 Nov 2014
- Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Bathurst Regional Council, Bathurst 24 Nov 2016–22 Jan 2017
- Benalla Art Gallery, Australia 10 Feb 2017–07 May 2017
- The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills 19 May 2017–19 Nov 2017
Brett Whiteley: sculptures and ceramics, The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 05 Jun 2015–06 Dec 2015
Referenced in 5 publications
Robert Gray, Art and Australia (Vol. 24, No. 2), 'A few takes on Brett Whiteley', pg. 216-224, Sydney, Summer 1986, 223 (illus.).
Janet Hawley, Good Weekend Magazine, 'Still life', pg. 18-24, Sydney, 02 Jul 1994, 21 (colour illus., detail), 22. titled 'Black Totem Egg'
Barbara Konkolowicz., A different vision, 'A different vision', Sydney, 1998, (illus.). titled 'The get laid totem'
Humphrey McQueen, Art and Australia (Vol. 17, No. 1), 'Brett Whiteley', pg. 45-52, Sydney, Sep 1979, 50 (illus.).
Barry Pearce, Brett Whiteley Art & Life, 'Birds & landscapes', pg. 196-223, 235, London, 1995, 205 (colour illus.). plate no. 143(b)