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16 November 2020
The entire Lifestyle Wimmera Edition 6 is available online. READ IT HERE!
By Dylan De Jong
Art was just a hobby for Yorta Yorta woman Michelle Taylor.
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But after years of struggling with her mental health, she is finding the medium of painting is helping her to emerge from a dark place.
The Horsham artist transformed her spare room into an art studio where she now spends countless hours turning ideas into works of art.
In 2018, Ms Taylor picked up a paintbrush and re-immersed herself in art at a time when her mental health was low.
Today, she is producing primarily Aboriginal dot-art pieces under the name ‘Imigo Dawn’.
Her art has captured the attention of many Wimmera residents, who are buying prints and pieces of jewellery featuring her art.
Ms Taylor said the process of creating and opening up her imagination had become a powerful tool to ignite positivity in her life.
“When I first moved here I had such crippling anxiety that I couldn’t even look up,” she said.
“If you knew me then compared with now, I wouldn’t speak to anyone I didn’t know.
“Art was more of a relief for my mental health. My mental health was all the way down and I just started painting and it started to calm me.
“It was just to soothe the savage beast of mental illness – it was shocking. But now I’m bouncing back.”
She said opening up about her mental health journey and expressing herself through painting was key to her recovery.
“I’m very open about my mental illnesses. No one can use anything against you if you are open about it,” she said.
“Through being open, I’ve met a whole range of people who are willing to speak to me about mental health – it’s quite amazing.
“It’s been a ride, but I have better coping skills than I’ve had before.”
Ms Taylor’s art process usually involves taking abstract objects such as the formation of clouds and transforming them into landscapes, people and native Australian animals using earthy colours.
One piece titled ‘Willy-Willy Country’ involved using a painting her six-year-old nephew Blake created. Blake’s mother sent her the photo.
Ms Taylor said the photo sparked her imagination and she transformed his painting into a piece that was reminiscent of her childhood in Yorta Yorta country on the northern Victoria-New South Wales border.
“My art starts as whatever comes out of my head,” she said.
“I just remember looking at Blake’s painting and seeing more to what he had created. I remember back home when we used to ride the school bus in the summertime and there were willy-willys, or whirlwinds, forming over the landscape. They were just fantastic to look at.”
Ms Taylor said when creating the dot-art pieces she felt a strong connection to her people.
“When I first started, I loved doing the dot art,” she said.
“It might sound corny, but it felt like I was tapping into the ancient energy that was helping me push through the barriers, telling me to finish the piece. The whole process feels like a meditation where you can get lost in doing the dots or line work.”
Ms Taylor moved to the region more than 10 years ago and now works in administration at Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative.
“I really love Horsham. I feel like I have really been welcomed into the community,” she said.
“The Aboriginal community here is fantastic and has embraced and loves me.”
Ms Taylor said since starting a Facebook page for her artist profile Imigo Dawn, many people had shown interest in her work.
She said more than 700 people followed her page and her art was in heavy demand.
“I’m still in shock that people want to buy my stuff. It’s pretty surreal. If I ever get to the point where I only have to work a four- day week, I would consider myself to be successful,” she laughed.
“But I would never want it to be anything more than a hobby, because I do enjoy the creating side of it, I don’t want it to be business all the time.”