Hand & Heart Shall Never Part exhibition

INSPIRATION: Dr Sally Gray has spent tireless hours researching how to best preserve the legacy of her friend, artist and activist David McDiarmid. Picture: Adam McLean

INSPIRATION: Dr Sally Gray has spent tireless hours researching how to best preserve the legacy of her friend, artist and activist David McDiarmid. Picture: Adam McLean

It’s been 21 year years since the world lost gay activist and acclaimed artist David McDiarmid, but his legacy continues.

An exhibition of his collaborative works, Hand & Heart Shall Never Part, with fashion designer Linda Jackson is visiting Wollongong until February 2017.

Until his death in 1995, the former artistic director of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, was a passionate advocate for safe sex once the horrors of the AIDS crisis became apparent.

McDiarmid, the first person arrested at a gay rights protest in Australia, didn’t devote all of his time to activism however. He was also heavily involved in Australian fashion.

Close friend Sally Gray was entrusted as being the executor of his estate and she made it her duty to ensure sure his work still gets recognised.

“For several years I've been researching his life and work in order to be able to make the right decisions,” Gray said.

“It’s like he gave me this very difficult job to pull off ... but it also opens up all these questions to me about history, creativity, how people live creative lives and why and how people contribute to history and how people come together and collaborate to create.”

Gray curated the exhibition to showcase McDiarmid’s collaborations with Jackson from 1975 to 1994 where they created exquisite garments for Sydney’s Flamingo Park boutique (owned by Jenny Kee) and Jackson’s Bush Couture label.

“Its about the creative friendship between those two people,” she said.

“I’ve been researching this whole creative moment – this period in the 70s and early 80s –  where there was this incredibly dynamic, exciting, youthful colourful optimistic, fun scene of art and fashion mixed up together.

“People weren’t looking necessarily to make careers first and make money first. They were putting having a creative life ahead of those  … they just really wanted to be fabulous and create fabulous things.”

Gray chose to bring the exhibition to Wollongong Art Gallery because she knew it would be received with “understanding and enthusiasm” and people would “engage imaginatively”.

Wollongong Art Gallery will host a free exhibition of Hand & Heart Shall Never Part on Saturday September 24 at 2pm.

The exhibition will run at the gallery until February 12, 2017.

Curator Dr Sally Gray and Linda Jackson will be in conversation at the gallery on Wednesday October 5 from 11am to midday for a free talk. They will discuss the recent revival in the fashion and style of the 1970s and recurring ideas about Australian identity.

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