Rebecca Mayo, Embracing the Familiar, 2021, screen-printed plant dyes on hemp. Photo Brenton McGeachie. 


Opening 3.00pm, Saturday 19 June, 2021. Exhibition opening includes a performance by Weetangera Primary School.


Please join us for the opening of Embracing the Familiar, a community arts project and exhibition by Rebecca Mayo. 

Embracing the Familiar is an exhibition of stories and tree rubbings created with the community. Participants were invited to take a rubbing around the girth of a tree they love, gather leaves or bark from the same tree, and write something about this tree. Mayo then translated the rubbings to fabric using screen-print and plant dye made from the collected leaves and bark. The cloth lengths vary in size and colour revealing the unique characteristics of their subject and the encounter between each person and tree. The texture of the trunk is visible on the cloth through the colour extracted from the leaves and bark. The length of each printed rubbing shows the size of the trees’ waistline, which in turn roughly indicates its age. Installed at Tuggeranong Arts Centre the printed rubbings will wrap around the gallery walls. The external surface of each tree will face inwards, holding the audience, together with the materiality and traces of the trees, to create a meeting place for memories and a record of plant and human exchange. 

To complement this exhibition, we will be hosting a variety of public programs, including workshops, a symposium and foraging walks with visiting artist Diego Bonetto. More information about these events will be promoted via the Tuggeranong Arts Centre website and socials. 

Exhibition Continues until Saturday 7th August, 2021

The Project: 

Embracing the Familiar by Rebecca Mayo is a community participation arts project developed in response to the recent challenges facing humanity and is an extension of a similar pre-covid project carried out in regional NSW. 

For the Tuggeranong project, Mayo asked the Canberra community to take a rubbing of a tree they love. During the COVID lockdown many of us worked and stayed close to home. In Australia most people could take daily exercise outside the home. Consequently, a form of looped walking became common: people walked to get out of the house rather than to reach a physical destination. This allowed us to pay a new kind of attention to our neighbourhoods and to look more closely at the non-human life we live with. Embracing the Famililar asks what comfort we might get from our local trees, inviting us to spend some time with one of them. Taking a rubbing around the girth of a tree was an invitation for each participant to spend some time with their chosen tree. Positioned up close, with paper and crayon in hand, people took an impression of the bark, in doing so they made a record of the time they spent with this tree. 

In addition to taking a rubbing, participants were asked to write down the species and location of the tree, and to record stories sharing why they love this tree. The stories and the marks recorded with crayons and made visible with each plant’s colour form the backbone of this project. The stories are rich and expansive, recording daily comings and goings; family milestones; playground antics; stories of loss and hope and trees cut down or saved.  

The pandemic required Mayo’s initial methodology of a hands-on local community project to become a mail-out home-based art project, promoted and accessed online. There were hundreds of responses from eager participants keen to be creative and connect with their local environment. There were international responses to the project, an unexpected result of this change, and a reminder of the global reach of Covid-19. 

Through an online registration process, an artist kit was mailed to participants, and the community was invited to take a rubbing around the girth of a tree they love, collect a handful of leaves or bark from that tree, and to share a story about why they chose that tree.  

The rubbings and stories sent back to the Tuggeranong Arts Centre have been screen printed by Mayo using a natural dye made from the plant matter that was returned to the arts centre. Embracing the Familiar will exhibit these works together at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre, to create a contemplative forest that is a meeting place for memories, traces of place, and an appreciation for the (sometimes) unseen trees that surround us, that help to ground us, in uncertain times. 

Embracing the Familiar attracted a lot of community interest from all around Australia, as well as New Zealand, USA and the UK. Tuggeranong Arts Centre mailed out over 150 kits to people eager to document the trees they appreciate, care for or find comfort in. 

About the Artist:

Rebecca Mayo is an Australian artist. She lectures in Printmedia and Drawing at the School of Art & Design, Australian National University. Trained in printmaking, she uses the language of print (that is, a practice built around process, repetition and labour) to produce artworks that manifest through—and reveal—practices of care. She uses site- and species-specific plant dye in her practice, thereby offering audiences a physical and material connection to these plants or places, making visible reciprocal relations and interdependencies between human and more-than-human life. In 2019 she was the winner of the inaugural Castlemaine Art Museum Print Prize and her work A cure for plant blindness, is included in the forthcoming CLIMATE CARE: Reimagining Shared Planetary Futures, at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), during the Vienna Biennale for Change, 2021. 


Tuggeranong Arts Centre

137 Reed Street, Greenway ACT