Shirley Macnamara / Indjalandji/Alyawarr / Australia b.1949 / Bush fascinator I 2011 / Twined spinifex (Triodia pungens), seed, emu bone, emu feathers, resin and wax thread / 19 x 19 x 10cm / Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The artist

Shirley Macnamara
Bush fascinator I 2011

On Display: QAG, Gallery 14

Shirley Macnamara often uses materials important to her, which she finds at Mount Guide and on her clan lands at Camooweal. In her ‘Bush fascinator’ series, she has experimented with sculptural forms that combine spinifex, galah and emu feathers, seeds and bone.

Fascinators are decorative headpieces that are typically associated with the horseracing season and ‘on the field’ fashions. Macnamara’s fascinators, made from natural materials, bring together the artist’s love for desert races and her connection to the country in which they take place.

Shirley Macnamara runs a thriving cattle property with her son and his family near Mount Isa in western Queensland. She has close ties with Camooweal and the surrounding country through her mother’s Indjalandji people, and with Alyawarr lands, particularly Lake Nash, through her late father.

Macnamara started painting in 1987, but began to experiment with weaving in 1992. She is well known for the guutu (vessels) she makes using combinations of synthetic and natural materials. In particular, she likes to work with spinifex (Triodia pungens), a tough, spikey native grass commonly found in the driest parts of Australia.

Spinifex’s long roots help keep the soil together so that the sand does not spread and create more desert. For Macnamara, spinifex embodies strength and utility, and she uses it to create tactile sculptures that reflect her surroundings, culture and history, as well as personal experiences and memories.

Discussion Questions

1. What is the purpose of a fascinator? Apart from at the races, when and where would someone wear a fascinator?

2. Look closely at Bush fascinator I. What materials has Shirley Macnamara used? Why do you think she choose them? Think about materials that are special to you.

Classroom Activities

Working in pairs, design and make your own fascinator. Choose materials that are special to you, whether it is something that evokes a memory, is beautiful to touch or look at, or is your favourite colour. Consider how you will present your fascinator as an artwork.