Born: Utopia, NT
LANGUAGE GROUP: Alyawarre
COMMUNITY: Utopia, NT
Jeannie Mills Pwerle comes from the community of Utopia, 300kms north east of Alice Springs, with her traditional country being at Irrwelty and Atnwengerrp. Her mother is Dolly Mills Petyarre and her uncle is Greeny Purvis Petyarre (both of whom are well known artists). Her great aunt is the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, dubbed by art experts as one of the world's best modern and abstract artists.
Raised by a generation of Indigenous artists who were part of the batik producing generation of the 1970s, Jeannie was exposed to the success that these artists experienced as they began to experiment with acrylic on canvas. Jeannie inherited the Anaty (Desert Yam or Bush Potato) Dreaming from her mother, however as an artist, she has depicted this dreaming in a unique style which is all her own.
Paintings by Jeannie predominately represent the flower and seeds of the Anaty, which she enjoys collecting in her homeland. The yam grows underground with a viny shrub growing above ground, up to 1 metre high. It is normally found in the Acacia scrub lands on the spinifex sand plains, and it produces large pink flowers after the summer rain. The Anaty is a tuber (or swollen root) of the shrub and tastes like the common sweet potato. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
The linear work in Jeannie's artworks represent the impressive root system of the yam, and dots represent its seeds. There is an ancient Dreamtime story belonging to the Anaty, which artists continue to be taught as they get older. By depicting the Anaty in their paintings, Indigenous artists are able to pay homage to this significant plant and encourage its continual rejuvenation.
Using a variety of colours in each brush stroke, Jeannie builds up a pattern of harmonious (and occasionally contrasting) colours, embedded in (or defined by) a multitude of fine white dots, executed with intricate detail. Her paintings capture the viewer's attention as their eyes meander across the canvas, enjoying the harmonies and subtle variations in each brush stroke - no two being the same.
Although the Anaty (Bush Yam Dreaming) is shared by several other Utopian artists, Jeannie's works are unique to her and immediately recognisable. Her works and the variegated colour tones within them, make fascinating pieces in the home, because their colours subtly change, deepen or brighten with every nuance of the ambient light. They make excellent choices for interior design enthusiasts.
Jeannie lives a traditional life at Utopia as a ngangker (traditional healer or doctor) providing advice, bush medicines and applications to people of her community. She lives in Ahalpere country with senior elder Lena Pwerle, and the two are heavily involved in educating and encouraging other women to participate in painting, exhibitions and culture.