Kite-Like (2011). La Trobe University Art Collection. Purchased 2011. On display, La Trobe University library, Bundoora campus, Melbourne.
IN her first solo exhibition in 1967, Vivienne Binns exhibited paintings such as Phallic Monument and Vag Dens, which pushed the limits of acceptability by depicting male and female sex organs.
Her provocative works, at Sydney’s Watters Gallery, resulted in a barrage of attacks from scandalised art critics, and such was the backlash that immediately after the exhibition Binns gave up painting for nearly 20 years.
In that controversial exhibition, Binns became one of the first female artists in Australia to address the issue of sexuality from a feminist perspective. In an interview in 1975, she explained that while the exhibition convinced her that she wanted to be an artist, it also made her physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Having given up painting, Binns turned to working in enamelling, and became a pioneer of community arts. Her best-known community arts projects included the groundbreaking Mothers’ Memories, Others’ Memories (1979-81), in which, through the use of family albums, needlework, knitting and other artefacts, she documented the personal histories of women, first at the University of NSW, then in the western Sydney suburb of Blacktown.
Another of her community projects was Full Flight (1981-83), when she lived in a caravan for two years travelling around central western NSW.
Binns, who was born in 1940 and studied at Sydney’s National Art School, has often said she believes there is no separation between life and art; art is immersed in ordinary things.
In 1984 Binns started painting again and one of her more recent paintings, Kite-Like, is on display in the library on the Bundoora campus of Melbourne’s La Trobe University.
Kite-Like is a reference to Mike Brown’s notorious 1964 painting The Kite, which aggressively criticised the Sydney art world and 12 of its artists for commercialisation.
During the 1960s, Binns had been im-