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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Intimate portraits of celebrated family scoop $80,000 prize

Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist Thea Anamara Perkins has won the $80,000 La Prairie Art Award, an annual prize that champions work by female Australian artists.

Thea, whose prominent family includes her grandfather the late activist Charles Perkins and aunt, film director Rachel Perkins, won the prize with four portraits of three generations of her relatives.

Thea Perkins with two of the prize-winning works.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Each of the images is a re-working of snapshots of intimate moments from the past featuring three generations of her family, including a birthday party and Charles Perkins’ graduation in 1966 from Sydney University.

“I was trying to present a very nuanced view of these emotions,” says Thea. “They are unified by a sense of safety and connection but as First Nations people there is always a melancholy we have to deal with.

“When we look around there is always an unwavering connection and strength in spite of the challenges we have had and continue to be faced by. It is our love and strength that have kept our community and culture strong.”

Thea was “very shocked” when she first heard that she had won the prize, which includes a trip to the Art Basel art fair in Zurich.

Charles Perkins at his 1966 graduation with his daughter Hetti.

Charles Perkins at his 1966 graduation with his daughter Hetti.Credit:Thea Anamara Perkins

“I spent the whole phone call with my mouth open,” she says. “It is still very surreal.”

As part of such a prominent family, which also includes her great-grandmother, Arrernte elder Hetty Perkins, and her mother, art curator Hetti Kemerre Perkins, Thea is happy to be winning recognition on her own terms.

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