My ancestors are Saltwater people, and it is salt water that connects me to them. DEAN CROSS
Our identity emerges from the woven narratives of heritage, family and place. Dean Cross symbolically returns to Country through the act of applying and removing ochre to his half-immersed body. This performative act weaves time, splitting and twisting the chronologies of existence. The artist says of his performance, ‘It is me returning to Country – or returning to our Aboriginality.’ The displacement and disconnection Cross alludes to is inter-generational. His grandfather orphaned from birth, was raised in a white family, and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after serving in WWII. He passed long before Dean was born and was rarely spoken about during his childhood.
A series of Polaroids, one taken just as Cross emerges from the water, fix the moment and offer completion to the action. The artist’s bathing, and application of ochre, are motivated by a personal desire to heal, reconnect and enact identity.
Untitled (Self-portrait as clay and water), 2015
Single channel digital moving image, Duration: 4:43 min loop
Untitled triptych (Looking West, Ochred and Life preserver), 2015
Polaroid Colorpack II photographs
Courtesy of the Artist
About the Artist
Dean Cross is a First Nations, trans-disciplinary artist with ancestral roots lying within the Worimi Nation. He is trained in contemporary dance and works across sculptural and pictorial fields. Continuous themes in his works re-evaluate and reconstruct what it means to be Australian in the twenty-first century, and how that fits within our globalised world. He has been involved in numerous exhibitions and prizes including Tarnanthi at the Art Gallery of South Australia (2017), The Churchie Emerging Art Prize (2016), and The Redlands Konica Minolta Art prize (2015). In 2019, Dean completed the 4A Beijing Studio Residency Program in Beijing, China, and the inaugural Canberra/Wellington Indigenous Artist exchange. Dean was on the Board of Directors of QL2 Dance, Australia’s premier youth dance company, and an Associate Producer with Performing Lines.