Moya Delany – dreamcargo

Moya Delany – dreamcargo
07/05/2024 admin

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Exhibition dates: 2 – 12 May, Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm.

The wish that the modern world felt as epic as the one depicted in old stories and folktales—a place of tragedy and transcendence, of oaths and omens and fates, where everyday life felt like a quest for glory, a mythic bond with an ancient past, or a battle for survival against a clear enemy, rather than an open-ended parlor game where all the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

John Koenig
Dictionary for obscure sorrows 

Travelogues, Transit Lounges and Explosives

Dr Ashley Crawford

Travel can be a strange thing. Mis-booking a hotel in Venice leading to sitting pondering spending a night in a gondola when a former lover finds you in a state of despair but leading to a night of wonderment. Bumping into an old friend in the packed streets of Shinjuku leading to an evening of drunken debauch. But sometimes such coincidences occur in your own loungeroom when one begins reading on-line about an ex-employees new book on the extraordinary American pilot Amelia Earhart only to receive a visit from an artist friend who suddenly proclaimed that she had been compared in appearance and adventures to a famous pilot by the name of Amelia Earhart!!

Now, to fill in the gaps of the strange itinerary just outlined. For those not in the know, Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean during an attempt at becoming the first woman to complete a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Lockheed Electra plane and disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, just three weeks prior to her fortieth birthday.

The writer to whom I referred is Laurie Gwen Shapiro, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist whose writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Shapiro’s biography of Amelia Earhart will be published next year by Viking Books. I first met Laurie in 1993 when I began publishing a magazine called World Art, in part based in New York, when I employed her as our marketing guru. To my ongoing chagrin I had no idea she was a fledgling writerly genius.

The artist who proudly proclaimed her apparent likeness to Earhart is Moya Delany and, like the aviator, Delany has had her share of adventures. After graduating with a BA in Fine art 1989 she exhibited here in Australia before going to Bangkok where she lived at The Artists Club of Thailand. She worked as a journalist for Bangkok Time Out magazine, was an extra in Thai movies and soaps, made art and was part of an exhibition in Pattaya. In the 1990’s Delany lived in New York and was befriended by Deborah Harry who was enraptured by 

Delany’s feather fashion accessories and introduced her to a fashion agent who represented her for five years and led to her work being sold in such high-end boutiques as Barneys, Browns and Patricia Field. At this time she also came to spend time with film director Abel Ferrara while he was filming Bad Lieutenant, Ferrara’s 1992 American neo-noir crime film starring Harvey Keitel. She spent most of her time, she says, “walking in the footsteps of my heroes and inspirations like Dorothy Parker, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and loitering around The Algonquin and Chelsea Hotels.”

Returning to Australia, Delany’s collection was picked up for the Georges Department Store reopening and she began accessorising brands such as Zimmerman, Scanlan and Theodore and Bettina Liano for their runway shows at Sydney Fashion Week and stocking her leather and feather creations at Christine, Robby Ingham and the MCA store where rock icon Bruce Springsteen snapped up her entire collection.

After ten years in fashion, Delany returned to her art practice and the results were somewhat startling. She began creating montages, both one and three-dimensional, inspired by both her own travels and those of her parents alongside such figures as Amelia Earhart and Earnest Hemmingway, pilfering stored detritus and thus becoming a bowerbird of both on-line finds and dusty opportunity shops. Often the flotsam and jetson of the dead, bringing it back to life in a carousel of adventure and exoticism, a form of nostalgia la surrealiste or an ultimate postmodern travel guide.

Given that much of Delany’s current oeuvre revolves around this history of plane travel, it inevitably raises its hazards and its history of crossover with war. Military apparatus often appears, repurposed as a sedentary aesthetic of sexiness. Repurposing is a key element as when Delany makes sublime sculptural light shades from repurposed parachutes and vintage (at times military) flags. One may suggest the influence of Delany’s mother who worked as a nurse during the Vietnam War, a horrific venue where re-use, recycling and innovation were key necessities.

Her sculptural assemblages create narratives reminiscent of Hollywood B-Grade movies of the 50s and 60s or their more sophisticated versions in the new millennium. We cannot help but jolt from Casablanca (1942) with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 

(2008) with Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchet (who, of course, would have to play Delany in any filmic adaption of her art career.) With their roped-up luggage and bizarre assemblages of stickers, often warning of dubious and decidedly delicate content, Delany’s packages are not for the faint of heart!

A classic example of Delany’s adventurous output would be the poignantly titled One Day We’ll Find Everything We’ve Lost from 2023. For those of an academic of technical persuasion it must be noted that Delany is far from a lazy artist. This work is compiled of “plaster, cement, glass, miniature Haliburton case, fake diamonds, parachute, bottle, cotton, butcher paper, vintage luggage and train labels.” Everything a girl might need. The labels, not so subtly, include rather prominently “Explosives: Shunt with Great Care.”

The works are also inarguably elegant. In appearance they cross from danger to décor, perfume to poison, whether sculptural object de art or photographic montage they scream secret meanings, hidden codes, perfumed codex. Even when illuminated and glowing by scarlet parachute lighting.

So, on the same day that Laurie Gwen Shapiro emailed me from New York to tell me of her new book on Amelia Earhart I receive a visit from Moya Delany telling me she’s been compared in appearance and adventures to a pilot by the name of Amelia Earhart. A bit weird, but OK. But then Delany, in utter delight, announces she’s been sent a stick of ‘Delany Dynamite’, disarmed, thankfully, but a real brand of explosive dynamite from America. And, one wonders, what would Indiana Jones do? 

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