Mary James is a well-respected member of the Artists of the Barkly collective. Dedicated to her creative practice, Mary combines the visual language of Indigenous Australia with that of other cultures, drawing inspiration from the geometric patterns and designs of North African and First Nation American peoples.
She was born in 1961 at Warrabri settlement (Ali Curung) and has resided in Kulumindini (Elliott) for the last 21 years. She is Warlpiri and her country is Ngarnalkurru in the Lander River area. Mary started painting in the 1980s while living in Lajamanu. During this time, her paintings were about ngurlu (seeds), wardapi (goanna), wampana (wallaby) and Karlawurru (water goanna) dreamings.
Desert Colours by Mary James
Over time Mary has shifted to a more contemporary style but remains inspired by elements of nature such as the passing of seasons, or the comparison of wet and dry regions of the country. In recent years Mary’s paintings have explored the Colours of the Desert, reinterpreting the experience of Central Australia and its arid landscape. There is in these paintings a critical approach to desert colours, warm and earthy tones are applied in rhythmic patterns and are contrasted against the cool blues that come with the wet season.
My Country by Mary James
Mary’s curiosity in expanding creatively has allowed her to take the lead in some exciting new projects and cemented her role as a leader among the Artists of the Barkly.
In April of 2022, Mary’s work Colours of the Desert was brought to life for the installation Grounded Parrtjima: A Festival in Light. Grounded saw animated interpretations of this year’s theme ‘Sky Country’ projected onto the red sand of Alice Springs Desert Park.