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Megan Nicolson's Soggy Homes exhibition

Explore the wonder of wetlands at the WAG

News Article Date: 
Friday, 27 November 2020

The Warrnambool Art Gallery has transformed its Family Learning Centre into a vibrant wetlands where children can explore and play with wonderful oversized creatures, created by local artist Megan Nicolson, and learn about the threats of a changing habitat. 

In Soggy Homes: The Wonder of Wetlands, Nicolson wanted to create a unique world, a wonderland that gave visitors the feeling of actually being in the wetlands. She has paired her work with a soundscape made from recordings by the Nature Glenelg Trust, an organisation that works with government and farmers to restore wetlands in South West Victoria and South Australia.

Much of Nicolson’s work is based on environmental themes, and this show in particular was inspired by her childhood growing up around Budj Bim National Park and South West Victoria, which she has heard referred to as the “South West Kakadu”.

Her art practice has evolved from painting to textiles, so she could balance family life and she enjoys the relationship between the art of craft and environmental issues. She said to address them is a slow practice that takes time and there are wonderful parallels between the ideas of taking time to mend, mending the fabric of humanity and existing with children.

Nicolson’s sculptural works are made from recycled fabrics, much of which is donated, and the idea of being able to reuse fabric which may otherwise end up in landfill is important. 

Her wonderful wetlands sculptural creatures for this show include the White-footed Dunnart, a carnivorous marsupial that feeds on insects and small reptiles, found living on the Belfast coast where a range of dunes and wetlands are in varying degrees of needing care.

“There is potential for them to be a rare and threatened creature, we don’t know what is there and we need to protect what we have and make sure that future generations have that legacy,” she said.

She has also made a large Growling Grass Frog, a Western Bright-Eyed Brown Butterfly (that is regionally extinct), the brightly-coloured vulnerable fish called Little Galaxias and other plants and animals.

To further enrich the experience WAG has made stickers of the Western Bright-Eyed Brown Butterfly that visitors can place on the walls of the Learning Centre over time, and give the impression that the butterflies are returning and the wetlands are coming back to life.

Gallery Education Officer Agostina Hawkins said, “The Family Learning Centre continues to provide a dynamic environment where Children can enjoy collaborative play with their families. Children can also learn about contemporary issues and the area we live in, in creative and enjoyable ways”.

Gallery Director Vanessa Gerrans said, “Megan has created a magical wonderland experience and you can feel the excitement as children first catch a glimpse of the giant wetland creatures”.

“We were intentional about keeping the exhibition open for a long period to allow schools and local communities to take advantage. We hope to see children and families returning to spend time together and investigate the layers of information about their local environment. This is a continuation of WAG’s investment in STEAM learning which incorporates art into science, maths, engineering and technology”. 

Nicolson said wetlands have historically been drained, yet they have an amazing ability to hold carbon and offer massive potential for the planet. Through this show she hopes to raise ecological literacy in the community and encourage people to become more involved in preservation and help to collect data to broaden the knowledge base and protect vulnerable species.

The exhibition is on at the WAG until June 6 2021.

A free activity book ‘Field Guide’ and a suite of programs and events support the exhibition.



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