Painter’s fertility prayers answered – Gippsland Times

20 Nov 2010, 1:15 p.m.

IT TAKES a brave man to talk about his infertility, let alone exhibit it for all the world to see.

IT TAKES a brave man to talk about his infertility, let alone exhibit it for all the world to see.

Cursed with a zero sperm count caused by an abnormal gene, Joshua Yeldham and his wife Jo turned to science to realise their dream of starting a family.

''Having fertility issues as a man is quite isolating,'' he told members of the Art Gallery Society of NSW gathered at his sister Ali's Arthouse Gallery in Rushcutters Bay.

Yeldham put his faith in the environment surrounding his home on the Hawkesbury River, creating fertility offerings to the owls that feature prominently in his art.

Previous shows had been about the search for fertility but River Song was a ''thank you for letting us have little Jude and Indigo'', he said.

Jude, now 2, and Indigo, 7, were conceived through IVF.

Yeldham described his works as ''victory'' paintings. ''This show is a thank you to the owl.''

But his owls and landscapes are far more than paint daubed on canvas. The artist spikes boards with slivers of cane and gouges and carves surfaces with shells.

Born into a wealthy, well-connected family, Yeldham was bullied at Cranbrook School for being dyslexic. Years later a chance encounter with a hermit called Jesus on a mountain in Venezuela led him to make the film Frailejon which won an Emmy award in 1993 and was nominated for an Oscar.

But filmmaking didn't work out. Yeldham said his next script, written in the desert over 18 months, was rejected for being ''too ethereal, too spiritual and not commercial''. Tragedy struck when his aunt Margaret Wales-King and her husband Paul King were murdered by their son in 1996, an attack that finds expression in his art.

Yeldham attributes his honesty to being a ''born storyteller'', and compares creating art to falling in love: ''You have to reveal yourself bit by bit. You can get bitten, but you still take that risk.''

Baldrick's wanderings

AMONG the arts patrons, celebrities and soon-to-be-unemployed NSW Labor politicians at last week's opening of the Annie Leibovitz exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art was a face familiar to millions of TV viewers.

It was Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in the Blackadder television series and hosted The Worst Jobs in History. He is in Australia to film a six-part series on our history to screen next year.

Like David Wenham, who opened the show, Robinson admitted he had never been scrutinised by a Leibovitz lens. ''But that would be wonderful, wouldn't it?'' he said.

Wonderful isn't the word to describe the crowd's response to MCA director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor's attempt to spruik the show's sponsoring partner, Qantas.

Some guests managed to tear themselves away from the bar long enough to peruse the show.

Coincidentally, Leibovitz's former assistant Martin Schoeller has his own exhibition of celebrity snaps, Martin Schoeller: Close Up, at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

The notorious shot of a naked pregnant Demi Moore - originally meant to be a private snap for the actress - remains startling. But a photo of a pregnant Leibovitz taken in 2001 by her lover Susan Sontag, alongside two other snaps of Sontag with baby Sarah, is equally surprising given the photographer was 51 at the time.

Incredibly, she gave birth again 3 years later to twins.

One of Sydney's most prominent collectors said of the works: ''Some of these prints I would have sent back. But that's just me. I'm tough.''

Tough medicine, indeed.

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Painter's fertility prayers answered - Gippsland Times

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