Language group: Alyawarreye
Country: Atwengerrp and Irrwelty
Jeannie Mills Pwerle is a highly respected artist from Utopia and has become well recognised for painting Anaty (desert yam or bush potato) dreaming. Her work has been exhibited around Australia since 2004, and in 2008 her large Anaty painting was accepted in the 2008 NATSIAA, the most prestigious Aboriginal art award in Australia.
Jeannie has close family connections to some of Australia’s top names in art. Her mother is well known Utopian artist Dolly Mills Petyarre and her uncle the late Greeny Purvis Petyarre, a finalist in the 21st NATSIAA. Her great aunt is the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, one of the world’s best modern abstract artists.
Jeannie lives a traditional life at Utopia as a Ngangker (a traditional healer or doctor) providing advice, bush medicines and applications to people of her community. She lives in Ahalpere country with senior elder Lena Pwerle, and the two are heavily involved in educating and encouraging other women to participate in painting, exhibitions and culture.
Jeannie Mills Pwerle lives in a remote bushland area of Utopia, 300 km north east of Alice Springs with a small family group of Aboriginal people. Her mother is Dolly Mills Petyarre and her uncle is Greeny Purvis Petyarre, both well known artists. Raised by a generation of indigenous artists who were part of the batik producing generation of the 1970s, Jeannie was exposed to the success that these artists experienced as they began to experiment painting.
Jeannie inherited the Yam Dreaming from her mother, however as an artist, she has depicted this dreaming in a unique style which is all her own. Jeannie's subject matter is the flower and seeds of the Anaty (bush yam, or bush potato). Using a variety of colours in each brush stroke, she builds up a pattern of harmonious (and occasionally contrasting) colours, embedded in (or defined by) a multitude of fine white dots, usually executed with intricate detail. Her paintings capture the viewer's attention as their eyes meander across the canvas, enjoying the harmonies and subtle variations in each brush stroke - no two being the same. In 2008, Jeannie was one of the finalists in the important 25th Telstra Award for Aboriginal Art with her entry Anaty - Bush Yam.
Jeannie's Dreamings are centred on the seeds and blossom of the desert yam and on associated women's ceremony. Although the Bush Yam Dreaming is shared by several other Utopian artists, including the prominent artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Jeannie's works are unique to her and immediately recognisable. Her works and the variegated colour tones within them, make fascinating pieces in the home, because their colours subtly change, deepen or brighten with every nuance of the ambient light. They make excellent choices for interior design enthusiasts.
The yam is a staple part of the bush tucker diet of many indigenous people from the Central Desert region. It has an impressive root system, spreading up to twelve metres from the stalk, and is commonly found in woodland areas nearby a water source. Its bright green leaves and yellow flowers, can spread over quite a wide area, growing strongly until after the rainfall months when it is harvested by digging it out of the ground.
By depicting the Yam Dreaming in their paintings, indigenous artists are able to pay homage to this significant plant and encourage its continual rejuvenation.