Brave Sandra

As far as art and the Salamanca Arts Centre is concerned, my main interest lies with the ‘big’ exhibitions in the Long Gallery. But more and more, in recent times, I have been venturing up to the third level; to the more intimate showing areas to be found there. In doing so I have discovered much to relish and intrigue with the wares produced by my city’s vibrant arts community using these spaces.

So one morning it was the product of Sandra Petersen I was casting my eye over. Now the first feature of being ‘up there’ that struck me, soon after the opening of SAC that day, was how perfectly quiet it was. There seemed not a soul around at all – and nor, during the whole length of my stay, did anyone put in an appearance – unlike other times when I ventured up that extra flight of stairs. I suppose it was akin to a private showing.

The second aspect of that morning’s perusal to appeal to me was the variety of genre awaiting examination. What first caught my eye were her prints of Tassie fauna and landscapes. She is a refugee from Queensland and is obviously much taken with her new home. As well, Sandra works in oils, pastels and the carving of wood. She has also invested in photography; Ken Duncan referring to her as a natural. More recently has come her stone masonry. The silent exhibition that day followed on from others she has set-up around this state and across the water. A future one would be well worth a visit.

But it wasn’t until I returned to my home by the river and dived into the ether, to see what else I could find out about her, that I discovered just how difficult her journey has been.

Her introduction to art was as a sickly child, beset and often bedridden by seizures, asthma and diabetes, was the gentle whimsy of Beatrix Potter. Attempting to replicate the author/illustrator’s distinctive furry and feathered creatures set her off on her road to a lifelong love of art. Later on came the local library where she borrowed book after book to see what she could glean from the greats. Paralleling all this came her love of music. She tinkled the ivories and began studying opera. At the end of her formal schooling she was accepted into the Queensland Conservatory of Music. Then she received the offer of scholarships – one to train as a music teacher, the other in the same line of work for art. The latter won out. As she began to raise a family she taught her passion at both secondary and tertiary levels.

Then, with three young ones under the age of seven, her life changed remarkably. A huge truck, carrying a full load, ploughed into her station wagon. It was almost the end of the line. She was left with spinal and head injuries, as well as internal bleeding. All this required eight long years of rehabilitation. Her acquired brain affliction left her with a lack of mobility and speech, together with plenty of on-going pain. To her credit she eventually overcame this major trauma to produce what I saw on display that winter morning. There were numerous plastic folders containing the results of her expert labours and an array of work from many fields.

Her inspiring story is available in more detail on-line and there are various websites, as well, to check out her artistic enthusiasms. It all enhanced a lovely time spent in her absent company that morning.

The Artist’s website = http://www.sandrapetersen.net/

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