Debutantes: Bindi Cole - Art Collector

Issue 55, January - March 2011

This profile appeared in the "Debutantes" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2011"

Born: 1975, Victoria
Joined: Nellie Castan Gallery, May 2010

Bindi Cole is a provocative photographer whose wild take on contemporary Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture has attracted popular and critical acclaim. Of self-confessed English, Jewish and Wathaurung descent, she explores the disconnection between people and how culture defines them via glossy, theatrical images.

Cole’s artistic career began in 2004 when, as a graduate she was included in the National Student Photography of the Year exhibition. Then in 2007, Cole won the Victorian Indigenous Art Award. She was also finalist in the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Award and the National Photography Portrait Prize. This propelled a flurry of exhibitions, including Not Really Aboriginal which explored how black you need to look to be considered Aboriginal and how white Aboriginals cross the cultural divide. The following year Cole was a finalist in the 25th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award with the work How to be a domestic goddess (2008). In the making of her powerful images Cole cites such influences as the pioneering photomedia artist Sue Ford and photographer and interdisciplinary artist Brook Andrew.

In an intense five years of exhibiting Cole has held 19 exhibitions including Big Blak Heart, a video installation projected into large-scale windows. Grants from the Australia Council and Arts Victoria afforded Cole time and money to develop Sistagirls, a series of highly stylised portraits of Tiwi Island transgender men. Cole spent a month documenting the sistagirls who were each professionally made-up and styled with artefacts from the local museum. She then choreographed each shoot against a different backdrop on the island making the visual landscape a significant component of the subject matter. With adept handling of the camera and skilful digital manipulation Cole has bathed the images in a nostalgic light as if to recall an arcadian past where Tiwi culture was unknown to the outside world. The result – a luminous suite of 11 images in editions of eight – was exhibited at Nellie Castan Gallery in 2010, which now represents the artist. “More than half of the work on exhibition sold to a very appreciate audience” says director Nellie Castan. “Bindi’s work is intelligent and quite confrontational. She is very proud, passionate and importantly, makes beautiful things.”

Courtney Kidd

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