Flesh After Fifty

Image by Ruth Maddison

Changing images of older women in Art

Flesh after Fifty is a thought-provoking art program exploring and challenging negative stereotypes of aging while celebrating positive images of older women through art. The project is the brainchild of Professor Martha Hickey, Deputy Head Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the project was developed to broaden the conversation and reflect the capability, diversity and achievements of women as they age.

Alongside the free exhibition, Flesh after Fifty presents a provocatively diverse and entertaining program of free and ticketed events - talks, tours, film screenings and workshops from 7 March to 11 April in the Laundries Building at Abbotsford Convent.

From physical and mental health forums, a writer’s panel, a mini women’s film festival titled Flicks after Fifty, to burlesque performance and circus training workshops; artists, performers, academics and community leaders explore the politics and social impact of the depiction of women over fifty within the arts.

The program also features an evening of grand dining surrounded by the artworks hosted by award winning co Award-winning comedian, actor and TV presenter Denise Scott and a series of free education programs for senior secondary and tertiary students to explore the works, contest perceptions and foster discussion

Images by Ponch Hawkes

At the cornerstone of the Flesh after Fifty commissioned works is Ponch Hawkes’ 500 Strong, featuring hundreds of nude photographs of women over the age of 50 from across Victoria.  Renowned Victorian artists Penny Byrne, Patrick Pound, Claire Lambe, Catherine Bell, Cathy Staughton, Sam Jinks, Megan Evans, Niki Koutouzis, Hotham Street Ladies and Maree Clarke have also created works that challenge and explore current perceptions of how older women are represented through art.

Curators Jane Scott and Kirsty Grant have selected a further 10 artists whose art depicts older women’s issues and concerns utilising contemporary perspectives and techniques including video and text-based art. Artists include photographer Janina Green, collage artist Deborah Kelly, sculptor Greg Taylor, photographer Ruth Maddison and figurative painter and sculptor Peter Wegner.

“Flesh after Fifty is challenging and changing views of older women in new and innovative ways through engagement with the arts. The exhibition will explore many aspects of what it means to be a mature woman, celebrating diversity and recognising the beauty and strength that comes with ageing”, said Martha Hickey, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Initiator, Flesh after Fifty.

The title of this exhibition comes from a quote by renowned American photo-journalist, Eve Arnold (1912-2012), who photographed Hollywood star Joan Crawford on several occasions. The first, in 1956, was on assignment for the Woman’s Home Companion magazine, part of the publicity campaign for Autumn Leaves, a film in which Crawford (then in her early fifties) played a spinster wooed by a man many years her junior. Arnold recalled: ‘The first time I met Joan Crawford, she took off her clothes, stood in front of me nude and insisted I photograph her’, adding, ‘sadly, something happens to flesh after fifty.’

Flesh after Fifty Exhibition details:  

Dates:         Sunday 7 March – Sunday 11 April 2021

Hours:        Monday – Thursday 10am to 4pm, Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday & Sunday 9am to 5pm

Venue:        The Abbotsford Convent, Magdalen Laundries, 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford

Cost:           Exhibition FREE, public program events free and ticketed

Further info: https://www.fleshafterfifty.com/

COVID-19: Flesh after Fifty presentation will follow all Victorian Government guidelines regarding Covid-19 restrictions and recommendations to ensure all visitors are safe. Follow this link for details.