The creativity of a Kingaroy mum Yvonne Cope is being highlighted at Kingaroy Art Gallery in October … daughter Kathy Cope, above, had been delving into crates and cupboards with her two sisters to put the exhibition together

September 29, 2023

An unusual exhibition casting a spotlight on the creative life of an “ordinary” country woman will be taking over the Kingaroy Art Gallery in October.

The idea for “Mum Went To Town” came about after Kingaroy resident Yvonne Cope died in 2019.

“As family and friends gathered around us at our parents’ home, my sisters and our children began looking through mum’s wardrobes, cupboards and drawers, finding so many precious things and many that were made by her,” daughter Kathy said.

“Pulling out some of the outfits she had kept from the ’70s onward was a reminder that Mum had always been stylish.”

Yvonne made many of her own outfits as well as clothes for her children and later, grandkids.

“The twinkle in Dad’s eye when we pulled out a set of hot pants in a tiny floral fabric was magic: ‘I remember her wearing that – she looked good!’,” Kathy said.

“And when we asked where she wore them, the answer was ‘When she went to town’.

“As we delved further into plastic crates and cupboards, we found more reminders that Mum had lived a full creative life.

“She studied pottery at TAFE in Kingaroy, had a kiln in the backyard, and created a hugely diverse range of items – slab huts, animals and figures for the garden, pots and vases, and numerous small platypuses.

“I remember packing half a dozen in my backpack for taking off overseas on a working holiday in the ’80s, giving them to new friends or as thanks for assistance given.”

There were samples from McGregor School courses, embroidery samplers, paintings, macrame and dyed fabrics.

“We found a box full of Barbie dolls in handmade clothes, including a crocheted flamenco dress,” Kathy said.

As they went through the boxes, the three sisters – Kathy, Sharon and Chris – began to understand the depth of their mother’s creative work … learning, experimenting, constantly creating.

“And then, thinking about how ordinary people do extraordinary things for the sheer pleasure of it – the idea that ordinary people aren’t ordinary at all,” Kathy said.

The sisters hope the exhibition will resonate with many people for different reasons.

“Some visitors may have known Mum, and have their own memories, craft related or not,” Kathy said.

“Some will be interested to see what an ordinary country woman might do. Others will be interested in the fashion timeline.”

In Gallery 3, Sharon will be adding to the family flavour with a display of pictures.

Sharon creates quirky drawings of old, unrenovated houses … Queenslanders, workers’ cottages, pre-war or fibro homes.

“She then scans them and colours them digitally, adding details like trees, breezeway block fences and other elements, in bright colours,” Kathy said.

Sharon has exhibited in galleries in Brisbane, was selected for the Grafton Gallery’s 2022 Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award, and was featured in 2023 BAD (Brisbane Art Design).

“Originally, we didn’t think we’d have enough to fill two galleries and while that has proven to be wrong, we’ve decided to stick with the original plan, as we like the generational aspect of creating art for personal joy,” Kathy said.

“All three sisters have creative natures, expressed in different ways, and Sharon’s art is a great example of taking new ideas and seeing where it leads, working on technique over time.”


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