First Nations people are heavily over-represented in Australian prisons, and an inquiry found that authorities show less duty of care to people in custody when they are Indigenous. Since 1991 there have been over 500 Indigenous deaths in custody. Mia has requested that 100% of profits from this collaboration go to the Dhadjowa Foundation, a grassroots organisation that provides strategic, co-ordinated, and culturally appropriate support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families whose loved ones have died in custody.
We had a chat with Mia to ask her about life lately, our collab, and her creative practice.
Double Double is beyond excited to collaborate with you to raise money for the Dhadjowa Foundation. Can you tell us a bit about why this was your organisation of choice?
The Dhadjowa Foundation supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who have lost loved ones in custody. More than 500 First Nations people have died in custody since 1991, and countless others before that. I see it as a continuation of the violent and racist colonisation of this country. I don’t know anyone who has died in custody but I do have family members that have experienced a lot of racism and discrimination by police.
Can you talk me through the story behind the artwork that we’re using for the collaboration?
The painting used for the collaboration is called “Three Men Smoking”. I created this artwork in 2020 for my sister, just after the Black Lives Matter protests started around the world. I have re-used “Three Men Smoking” in other artworks and in different ways since I created it. The original image that inspired this work is from a book about an exhibition called “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power”, originally shown at the Tate Modern in London. The image is a 1964 photograph taken by Albert Fennar, called “Rhythmic Cigarettes, Greenwich Village, New York”.
Who nurtured and inspired your love of painting? Is there someone (a friend or family member) who encouraged you to pursue art?
I remember a conversation that I had with my mum at the start of 2020, when I was about to start the final semester of my Art History degree. I said, “…okay, I’m going to try and be an artist for a year or so, and if it doesn’t work out, then I’ll do something else.” To which mum responded, “don’t ‘try’ and be an artist, just be an artist”. Both of my parents have always been extremely supportive and proud of me.
My partner, Will, is someone who’s been continuously supportive of my work and has been the sounding board for all my art anxieties. He’s extremely smart and will always have a book or text recommendation for a topic that I’m interested in. My exhibition, “K’gari means paradise in Butchulla”, back in September 2021, was made almost completely while we were in lockdown together in Naarm. I’d ask Will to go through every detail of every artwork with me, and give me a full run-down of his thoughts on each. I’ve got to hand it to him — he’s always very patient with my practice.
Can you talk me through your creative process? Our team at Double Double are huge musos and big on good vibes in the office — is there a particular song that you get down to while you’re in your studio?
I don’t really have a worked-out creative process. If I’m totally honest, my process is that I have no process. The only thing that I always try and do is read as much as I can about a history or topic before I begin any making. I go through an art crisis about once a month where I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing or how to continue making — but it always seems to work out in the end.
Music is a big part of my life. If I’m at the studio, then I’m listening to music. My friend, Matthew Harris, has a studio near me, and he recently created a portrait of me riding a crocodile with my headphones in.
My music taste is all over the place and really depends on what mood I’m in. I’ll go from pop, to disco, to rock, to folk, and RnB, all within the hour. My most listened-to songs from the past few weeks are “Two Worlds Apart” by Little Simz, “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick, “Boyz” by M.I.A., and “Baby” by Donnie & Joe Emerson. If I like a song, then I’ll listen to it every day for a month — until I really overdo it.
I understand that storytelling is such a rich part of your culture. Are there any stories from your childhood that have influenced your practice now?
There isn’t one particular story that influences my practice. My family and childhood in general inspire and influence my work. I have five siblings, so family life growing up was very fun but also chaotic. I’m very close with my parents and siblings and we have a group chat that we all constantly talk in. My favourite memories are ones spent on Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island) and being sweaty at our home on Whynot St in West End. There are also a lot of sad family memories that influence me and my work every day.
My upcoming exhibition, “Futures Lost”, at Penny Contemporary in Hobart, is quite different to my other shows. I will typically have exhibitions that focus on a particular history, but these paintings focus on the feeling of nostalgia — I’ve taken inspiration from dreams, memories, and places instead. My paintings are centred on certain family members and stories that are very personal and sad, so I won’t reveal the specifics. I’m hoping that people will recognise the feelings of melancholia and sentimentality without needing the specifics.
Who are your biggest influences in life or work?
Definitely my parents and siblings. Both of my parents work in Law and have instilled an intense sense of justice and fairness in me and my siblings.
Artistically, my biggest influences range, but I have a deep fascination with some mid 20th century Australian painters such as Russell Drysdale, Albert Namatjira, Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, and Noel Counihan. I could go on and on, but I’m also super inspired by a lot of contemporary First Nations artists such as Gordon Bennett, Tracey Moffat, Vernon Ah Kee, D Harding, and Archie Moore.
You currently live in Naarm. What’s your favourite or most inspirational place down there?
I love the diversity down here. There’s always different music, art, and sport events. People here are really committed to both putting on and attending events that bring people together — even when it’s bloody freezing. The summer here is really special and I usually love to go for a swim along the Yarra in various spots in Warrandyte.
Our team respectfully acknowledge the Turrbal and Yugara people — the Traditional Owners of the lands where Double Double now stands. We also acknowledge that this collaboration stretches across Australia, and we extend our respects to the Traditional Owners of those lands. We acknowledge a continuing connection to water, land and culture, and acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded. Double Double also pays their respects to the First Nations families who have lost their loved ones in custody.