Curator Hannah Williamson wanted to know why we adorn ourselves with clothes and accessories with such enthusiasm, and what it says about us. While she knew being able to alter our “brand” by swapping outfits or accoutrements is a global feature, she also wanted to have a local inflection when she began curating an exhibition for the Moreton Bay region.

With the help of 10 local selectors, Adorn explores how items we put on our bodies are invested with meaning – not only by their creators, but by the people who wear them. The result is a series of stories as varied as the individuals who wear the objects, such as a ring belonging to the deceased daughter of a jewellery designer who continues to wear it. “That ring can’t be understood by simply looking at it,” says Williamson. “You need to learn about the person who this belongs to.”

While the objects, such as jewellery, handbags, headwear and clothing, “speak to parts of a person’s identity”, the exhibition helps reveal underlying currents, such as the story behind Grace Oryem’s South Sudanese beaded adornments. These, says Williamson, are deeply connected to Oryem’s cultural heritage, and when worn tend to spark conversations about her history as an emigrant.

Or there is Brisbane-based author Cynthia Morton’s extraordinary range of expressive clothing, ranging from cheap and cheerful earrings to high-priced shoes: for this woman, flamboyance and investing your garments with personality is all about her own discovery of a new joy and freedom in life. As Williamson says, Morton’s one condition is this: she must completely love the object she is acquiring.

Caboolture Regional Art Gallery
1 December – 6 February

This article was originally published in the January/February 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Andrew Stephens