Baby Guerilla

  • first published …
  • 10 Jan 2012
  • Maribyrnong Leader
  • Art | Anna Bourozikas

Livening up walls out west

Fine arts graduate takes to the streets to make art accessible to more people

MELBOURNE’S drab inner west spots are being transformed one space at a time by the artwork of street artist Baby Guerrilla.

Her works include an image of a large nude girl surrounded by birds and one of a couple romantically holding hands while floating in the air. She also has a series on men who appear to be climbing out of windows.

Baby Guerrilla, a stencil paste-up artist, is the most prominent female street artist, possibly the only one, operating in the inner west.

Her images are popping up everywhere including on the wall opposite West Footscray’s Central West, the Sim’s supermarket carpark on Barkly St, Cross St in Footscray and on a wall outside Post Industrial Design in West Footscray.

Barren spots have become little galleries with a character telling a story.

‘‘The locations are based on my daily experiences,’’ the artist said. ‘‘Many walls I will pass by each day and dream about possibilities. Most of the paste-ups are based upon my various travel routes.’’ So who is Baby Guerilla? We arrange to meet at her house. Given that she does most of her pasting late at night, and her nickname is Baby Guerrilla, I was expecting a tough-looking woman in a hoodie, camouflage cargo pants and trainers. I had not expected a lady in the 60s Barbarella inspired outfit, complete with knee- high boots, A-line dress and long honeycoloured hair. But I shouldn’t be surprised given the strong feminine streak in her work.

Her characters are drawn from her personal experiences often representing herself or people she knows. She stencils images on large pieces of paper, cuts them out, climbs a ladder and glues them to the wall.

‘‘I love drawing and paste-ups are a way of giving my drawings a second life,’’ she said.

Baby Guerrilla shows me her studio at the back of her house where she is preparing works for an exhibition. She is a Victorian College of the Arts graduate and has exhibited paintings and sculptures.

Street art began as a hobby five years ago but the artist says she finds the work exhilarating.

Making art accessible to a wide range of people is important to her.  ‘‘I love the idea of setting art free, setting our souls free to dream and imagine and to go floating across a wall,’’ she says.

The Best Doughnuts in Melbourne’s West

Although I shouldn’t eat wheat, I make a few exceptions. For desserts. Of course. The humble doughnut, probably one of the wheatiest of all desserts, would have to be number one on my list of favourite desserts. My love for doughnuts dates back to my childhood and growing up in an outer south eastern suburb that couldn’t boast for much at the time. But inexplicably it had one of those silver and purple doughnut vans and sometimes my parents would buy me and my brother and even half dozen. Three hot, sugary, jam dripping goodnesses each. Times were different then. No one cared about `too much sugar’.

Anyway, enough about me. Let me recommend two places in Melbourne’s west where you can get a doughnut. I’m generous like that.

1. Olympic Doughnuts.
No doughnut list in Melbourne is complete without a mention of Olympic doughnuts at Footscray station. No one ever talks about Olympic Doughnuts without moaning gutturally in deep pleasure. Doughnut van owner and doughnut maker Nikos Tsigliris makes about 500 doughnuts a day. He and his little van have been in the same place for 33 years. That’s a lot of doughnuts.

Nikos Tsiglaris
Nikos Tsiglaris, Dude.
So revered is Nick, his doughnuts and his van, the Regional Rail Link has taken the unusual step of allowing Nick to remain in business throughout the Regional Rail links Demolition works. In a notice they created and pasted onto the front window of his van, the Regional Rail Link Team says they worked closely with Mr Tsigliris and his family to `allow the doughnut van to remain in place while the work is undertaken thus minimising the impact of the demolition on the business.’
While every other business at the train station was demolished and the area fenced off and under scaffolding, the little van continues to operate in the same spot it has been in since 1981. Now that’s respect.
Doughnuts Olympic

Olympic Doughnuts Eat me.

Nick is quite the charmer too. He can still make a woman swoon. When I told him my parents were from Larissa, central Greece, he recited some lines from a Greek song about fair skinned, fair haired Greek women like myself, being the most beautiful in Greece, before handing over a couple of free doughnuts. Smooth.

Where: Footscray Station, 51 Irvine St, Footscray.
Hours: Mon- Sat. 9a – 5p
9689 4819
80c a doughnut or $4.80 for six.

2. Papa Bear Bakehouse.
Actually in the heart of the middle of nowhere is this tiny gem of a bakery that specialises in Filipino bread and delicacies.  The friendly owners are too shy to reveal much about themselves. All you need to know is that the Filipino doughnuts are very good.  They come in a plait, and are dusted with sugar and/or cinnamon. And they are 50 cents each, very much worth the trek out to Braybrook. Fifty cents people. Fifty cents. And while you are out there, pop into here. That will make for a lovely afternoon tea.

Papa Bear Doughnuts

Plaits never looked this good. Papa Bear.

3012 Exhibition by Sarah Watt @ Post Industrial Design

When film maker and photographer Sarah Watt and her husband, the actor William McInnes, moved to West Footscray in 1990, they did so because it was “the cheapest place to live”.

“The skies are really wide. So, you get a great feel for space,” she says.

We are speaking at the launch of her latest exhibition titled simply 3012. This is West Footscray’s postcode. The exhibition is at West Footscray’s stylish Post industrial Design.

On this perfect Melbourne spring day, where the sky is as blue as it is wide, local residents and friends’ of the couple have crammed in to celebrate one of their own, a talented and favourite sister.

Watt has secondary stages breast cancer. She looks beautiful and radiant. Her wide smile never leaves her face as she greets friends and fans of her work, her husband never far from her side.

Watt is probably best known for her feature films. In 2005, she won the Australian Film Institute Best Director award for her film Look Both Ways. In 2009, she released her second film, My Year Without Sex.

“Films take so long to make. I like being able to take photos,” she says.

Anyone familiar with West Footscray would instantly recognise her images. There is a photo of the op shop on Barkly street; the skeletal brick remains of the old Dunlop tyre factory on Rupert street; the Uncle Toby’s silo on Sunshine Road; the unused train carriages resting at Tottenham station that look bleak by day but come alive at night when rows of lights – like thousands of fairy lights illuminate the tracks; the airplane at Central West; Indian saris on mannequins from the Indian shops on Barkly street – classic images of West Footscray.

“They (the images) open your eyes to the everyday that is around you. And the beauty of light and how it works on buildings”, says local resident Andrew.

Watt paints over her photos with acrylic paint. Sometimes she uses crayons or coloured pencils. It gives the photos greater texture and depth and the illusion of a painting or a sketch rather than a photo.

All around me people are reacting with delight at images they recognise from their home. One woman, standing next to an image of 501 Receptions on Barkly Street, is laughing at the centre’s slogan, A Touch Of Class.”

“It’s funny. Could you imagine getting married here?” she asks. Many have.

Sarah exhibited another series of images at Post Industrial Design several months ago as part of this year’s Victoria’s State of Design Festival. It is not surprising that Watt would choose a new gallery close to her beloved home to exhibit her work.

I ask Watt if she has any final words she would like to share for this story. Unsurprisingly, she generously credits gallery owner Mary Long for opening the little gallery and shop, and for her contribution to West Footscray.

“Mary, has achieved a bit of a breakthrough with this place. She’s showing that art and design can have a function. She’s gathered a little gang of people from the area, a collective of people who work on all the exhibitions together.”

The gallery is also selling her calendar, 3012/2012, which features images from her exhibition.

I leave Watt sitting with her mother, Anna. Her husband strides towards her, a tender look on his face. On one perfect day, everything she loved merged; family, community and art.

Sarah Watt

Sarah Watt, with husband William McInnes and artist Trish Holleley

Uncle Tobys

Art by Sarah Watt Uncle Tobys and Dunlop

Sitting Around

Sitting Around by Sarah Watt

A Touch Of Class

A Touch of Class by Sarah Watt

Dunlop

Dunlop by Sarah Watt
Sarah Watt’s brave battle with cancer ended with her death on 4th November 2011. Her attendance at the launch of her exhibition was to be her last public appearance.Her photographic tribute to her home is made more poignant because she knew she was leaving it behind.Update: 3012 Exhibition by Sarah Watt has been extended to the end of November.

Story originally printed on  http://www.weekendnotes.com/melbourne/

Death At An Early Age

I wrote the following short story several years ago, based on this photo taken by  Robert C Wiles. I found this copy here. It had haunted me for years.  I wondered who this woman was and how she fell from the Empire State Building.  Next week I will tell you the real story.

After plunging 86 floors from the observation deck of the Empire State Building, an attractive 23-year-old lies peacefully atop the crumpled sedan she struck on West 33rd street.

That was my obituary in Life Magazine that month.  Thirty words.

I woke that morning the same as any other.  I made my coffee. I took out my rollers and brushed my hair.  I put on my silk stockings, careful not to tear them with my finger nails.  I’d painted them bright red the evening before, ready for my date with Jimmy.  They matched the Max Factor lipstick I had bought on special at the drugstore.  And as I painted them again, rubbing my lips together, I thought about Jimmy’s soft mouth on mine and shivered.  Last night, I let him touch my breasts.  I was certain he would propose to me soon, and that finally, at 23 I would come off the shelf.

I kissed my mother goodbye, my father had already left.  I put on my gloves and walked my sister to school.  We chatted breezily about this and that.

When I got to work, I took off my coat and sat at my desk typing out letters.  I chatted with Estelle, who sat beside me.  She was already engaged to Billy, her high-school sweetheart.  They had already gone all the way.  Estelle said it hurt at first, but now she really liked it and that Billy was very good; gentle and tender.  I hoped Jimmy would be like that when our turn came because I really wanted him to be my first, my only.

He called me at work at lunchtime and asked me to meet him on top of the Empire State Building, to watch the sunset and to talk.  I tried hard to conceal my excitement.  Could it be today?  He sounded very cautious.  I couldn’t tell for sure.  I told Estelle and together we held hands and squealed.

I put on some fresh lipstick, combed my hair and popped a mint into my mouth – I wanted my breath to be fresh for that kiss hello.  I sprayed some perfume on my neck and a little on my breasts, if he wanted to touch them again.

With my bag in a gloved hand, I walked as fast as I could to West 33rd.  I took the lift and when I came out, there was Jimmy standing in the corner separate from the other onlookers.  His face was different, there was a coldness I could feel pierce my heart like glassy ice.

We sat down and he told me about her.  How they met in a store.  They kept running into each other and one day they decided to go on a date.  She was having his baby now and he had to marry her. It was the right thing to do.  He was sorry, very sorry because he loved me but hoped I could understand.  And then he left me there. Alone.

I stood up, stunned.  The tears came slowly.  I looked in my bag for my white handkerchief, pulled it out and dropped it.  I lent to pick it up but the wind had caught it and blown it on to the setbacks, where it had come to rest.  Jimmy had given me that handkerchief.  It had my initials on it, E.M. I climbed up the setbacks and walked slowly towards it.

“Evelyn,” I heard Jimmy call and as I turned around to face him, I lost my balance.

How peaceful I looked on that car, crushed completely by my body.  Not a hair out-of-place.  My hands still gloved.  My eyes closed and my lipstick mouth perfect, slightly open as if waiting for a kiss.  My stockings had fallen down my crossed legs, sitting  around my ankles.  My skirt was pulled down, not up near my thighs.  Mother would be pleased; my unloved, untouched body had died a lady.

©Anna Bourozikas.