This art group is giving lesbian elders a space to share stories


soup collective tasmanian lesbian art group tasmania hobart
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For the past five years, a group of Tasmanian lesbian elders have been sharing their stories through art.

For the founders of the Soup Collective, the underrepresentation of older lesbians led to conversations over bowls of soup, and was the catalyst for a progressive art movement.

Founding member Victoria Vyvyan said the collective provided Tasmania’s older lesbian community an opportunity to develop their art practice and form community connections.

“The group is expansive in terms of the art practice that we do and it also responds to what we want to say, in terms of lesbian voices,” she said.

“It’s always from the perspective of making sure older lesbian voices are heard in that space.

“I think as older women and as lesbians as well, I think you can be a bit forgotten in the land of the young in that space.

“So, we wanted to give voice to that and we wanted to put ourselves out there as loud and proud and old.”

Tasmania art group is vital social outlet

Having grown to a group of around 50 women aged over 50, Ms Vyvyan said the Soup Collective had become an important social outlet for many women.

“We have deep conversations with each other and we’re deepening our network,” she said.

“It’s just so important as you get older, as you get really old you lose friends.

“For me, the idea of continued loss without renewal is really soul destroying.

“So it’s important to continue to expand and create new connections with people.”

Works created by the Soup Collective are developed through a consultation practice, Ms Vyvyan said this allowed all members to be involved in the process, irrespective of their own artistic skills.

“People think they’re not creative,” she said.

“They will say ‘I can’t draw to save my life’, but they can come up with incredible ideas. Having a creative mind is equally as important.”

Soup Collective creates conceptual lesbian church

The collective’s most recent work was a response to the Federal Government’s contentious Religious Discrimination Bill.

The group created a conceptual church named The Church of Harridans Witnesses. The work explored the idea of a church run by lesbians, and what their ideal church would look like.

The group incorporated soundscapes and visual art in the work. They exhibited The Church of Harridans Witnesses at Moonah Arts Centre in Hobart.

For the Soup Collective, exhibiting their work is only a part of the creative process. Interacting with the public is also key.

“Once the work is exhibited, our work is always focused on conversation and participation,” Ms Vyvyan said.

“So we’re not just exhibiting the work, putting it up and walking away, saying ‘have a look at that’.

“There is always one of us present, we are present to engage with anyone who looks at the work and encourage them to participate in some way.”

Honouring the ‘unknown’ lesbians

In their recent exhibition, participants were encouraged to place a stone on a rock cairn to honour the “unknown” lesbians.

“It’s to honour those that came before us and those that live now that can’t speak their truth,” Ms Vyvyan said.

“Or those that never knew the name lesbian, but just knew they were different.

“And that was quite touching for people to be involved in.”

Find out more about the Soup Collective at the group’s website.

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