Joan has a room of her own

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Joan has a room of her own

June 9, 2019

Artist Joan Rodriquez was almost 80 before she got ‘a room of her own’. For most of her colourful life she eked out periods of solitude for painting amongst work, children and the general ebb and flow of domestic life.  But that changed a few years ago when she moved from an independent unit, which she had shared with her partner, into a light-filled apartment. Surrounded by her tools of trade Joan still paints and creates. Some of her work will be exhibited and for sale as part of the OCAV 150th celebrations at Rushall Park, North Fitzroy, later in the year.

Joan, a renowned Australian artist and her partner, Lewis Gibson, moved from their home in Carrum into OCAV’s North Fitzroy village in 2001. They lived in one of the cottages for many years until Lewis developed Parkinson’s Disease and moved to OCAV’s aged care facility at Liscombe House where he died four years ago.

“For the first time I had a room of my own and it has been wonderful,” Joan said.

Her artwork adorns the walls of her serviced apartment, but Joan’s current focus is a series of books she has written and beautifully illustrated about the adventures of a dog called, Singer, who sails a boat, The Aunty Glad, down the Murray River. The stories were inspired by the four years she spent with Lewis living on the Murray on a boat he had built. She gave the original set to her grandson, but is now producing more copies to sell at the 150th celebrations.

As well she continues to work on her art therapy, which has been her ‘salvation’ through many years and debilitating episodes of depression and mental illness.

Joan, who is 83, remembers her first artistic endeavor was with chalk around her home when she was about four years old. She drew on the walls and floors on the family home and on the verandah. “I suppose I lived a free and undisciplined life as a child and my mother didn’t seem to mind my drawing on the tumbled down walls,” she said. She studied art in Sydney and moved to Melbourne where she worked on various store magazines designing and drawing.

For many years, in the midst of raising her two daughters, Miranda and Kay, in Ringwood, she was heavily involved in the Ferntree Gully Art Society where she discovered ‘her tribe’ for the first time – people who loved art and who wanted to use it to express how they felt and how they saw the world. For much of her life Joan has exhibited and sold her work.

Joan began an art class at Rushall Park soon after she arrived and met regularly with ‘her tribe’ to paint. The class went for many years but most of the participants have died and those residents now keen on art attend classes outside the village.

Recently Joan has joined the villages creative writing group and is excited to discover she has a flair for this sort of writing.

“My deafness prevents me now from attending a lot of village activities, but that’s not an issue with the fortnightly creative writing gathering so I can participate happily,” she said.

Joan is also creating art boxes, which will be exhibited and sold at the 150thcelebrations. The boxes contain cards, marking Joan’s artistic journey and struggle with depression.

Sanctuary is how artist Gillian Coates describes her home at Currie Park, OCAV’s village in Euroa. “When I go to Melbourne and I am heading back to Euroa, I can’t wait to get home to the peacefulness of this place. It is like a sanctuary for me."

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