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Gloria Tamere Petyarre is an acclaimed artist. She was born around 1938 on Atnangker land 270 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs where her father and grandfather were born. It is hilly in places and covered with low-lying vegetation. Her language is Anmatyerre. Her family eventually settled at Utopia, an Aboriginal settlement comprising a number of outstations, close to Atnangker.
Jenny Sages has known the Utopia women for some time now having painted a portrait of renowned artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye 12 years ago. Emily was Gloria’s aunty. ‘I started gathering information on Gloria in 2001 during the filming of the documentary Two thirds sky (directed by Sean O’Brien), in which we were part of the same sequence,’ says Sages. ‘Four years later she reappeared for me. Gloria is a tall, handsome senior Atnangker woman. She is a full sister to [artist] Kathleen Petyarre and their shared totem is Annkerrth the mountain or thorny devil lizard.’
Sages chose to paint Gloria within the landscape she holds so dear. She quotes Gloria as saying: ‘Atnangker is my country, my father’s and my grandfather’s country. My brothers and all my nieces, all my grandchildren, they know this place. My soul loves this country.’
Sages also has a painting in this year’s Wynne Prize called The road to Utopia, which shows the track to Gloria’s country.
Born in Shanghai, Sages arrived in Australia in 1948. She studied at East Sydney Technical College, the Franklin School of Art in New York, then with John Olsen and Mary White. After freelancing as an illustrator for nearly 30 years, she has painted full time since 1985 and has exhibited her work in numerous solo and group shows. She has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize 13 times since 1990 and was highly commended in 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. She has won numerous art prizes including the Portia Geach Memorial Award for portraiture in 1992 and 1994 and the Mosman Art Prize in 1994. She was highly commended in the 1999 Wynne Prize. Her work is represented in numerous public and private collections including the National Portrait Gallery.