The final work of Australian contemporary artist Katthy Cavaliere has been gifted to Wagga Art Gallery.
The video work entitled Nest explores the artist’s grief after her mother died from ovarian cancer in 2009.
It was posthumously given to the gallery to form part of its digital media collection when the same cancer claimed the 39-year-old’s life in 2012.
The work that was to become a foreshadowing of her own decline, was never publicly shown during her life.
Charged with presenting a retrospective of her life and work, curator Daniel Mudie Cunningham chose The Channel space in the Wagga Gallery because he believes it accurately represents her personality.
“The Channel is an intimate, small, cupboard-like room that suited her, she liked quirky spaces to exhibit her work,” Mr Cunningham said.
“Having had my own work shown there, I was conscious that it brings a particular experience to the audience to view it like that.”
Mr Cunningham met Ms Cavaliere in the mid-90s. Over the next two decades of their friendship, he represented her works in galleries.
Filmed on Sydney’s Clovelly Beach, a place she frequented in childhood, the Nest encapsulates the kind of woman Ms Cavaliere was in life.
Facing the ocean and surrounded by her mother’s clothing, Ms Cavaliere wears only her mother’s stocking on her head.
“Her work was always highly personal, exploring personal identity, memory, and family,” said Mr Cunningham.
Much of her exploration comes from grappling with the feelings of displacement that so often accompany Australian migrants. At age four, she and her family left their life in Sarteano, Italy.
“In the year following her mother’s death, when she was packing up her home, which also happened to be her childhood home, she was coming to terms with what to do with these materials.
“Creating the nest out of her clothes pays tribute to that maternal relationship, to her mother, it’s her way of keeping her alive.
Like much of what she did in life, Mr Cunningham sees the work as painfully retrospective with a touch of humour.
“She’s meditating on these clothes, but there’s something slightly witty about the pantyhose on her head acting as a sort of wind sock.”
The pain and cruel irony building from the realisation that at the moment of filming, Ms Cavaliere did not know the same genetic defect would take her own life just three years later.
For Ms Cavaliere in 2012, there were only six short months between diagnosis and death.
Before finding its home in Wagga, Nest was exhibited in Hobart and Sydney, and has elicited strong responses from its audience so far.
“The work has actually been the one that resonates with people the most,” said Mr Cunningham.
“Not much needs to be said to understand it. It grasps those universal themes of grief, it’s highly personal but also audience-driven.”
Wagga Gallery will exhibit the work from August 4 until November 18.