A self-portrait by Australian sculptor Daphne Mayo, housed, unframed, in an art file in the University of Queensland’s Fryer Library is one of those images that can lead to ever-expanding circles of research and cross-disciplinary reading. Daphne Mayo was a key Australian sculptor of the mid-twentieth century, the creator of numerous prominent pieces of public art, and a woman who contributed significantly to the shaping of the Queensland Public art collection during the same period. There are a number of ways to analyse Mayo's body of work as a whole – as an artist herself in terms of her views, methodology, and artistic experimentation; as a woman exerting cultural authority; and as an interesting counterpoint to conventional scholarly ideas about national and state cultural identities. None of this is explicitly referenced in Mayo’s self-portrait.
How might we understand the demure hands and frumpy dress; the pained facial expression; or the direct gaze of the eyes? Does it matter that on the reverse of the self-portrait is a painting of her classical sculpture Susannah? Does that discovery change its meaning? What about when this self-portrait is compared to the one Mayo self-portrait held in a public art collection, or when compared with two small portraits in the Fryer’s Mayo collection that are accompanied with notes on colour? This paper will explore a few possible ways of understanding Mayo that arise from this self-portrait.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jane_hunt/5/