Kathleen Petyarre was part of a totem that’s embodied by her whole family through their artistic expression can be a difficult path to take especially if there are seven sisters together in one place with the Mountain Devil Lizard—a lizard living in the desert that has spikes on its back and changes its color according to its environment as it moves through diverse terrains—for its totem. Yet Kathleen Petyarre still finds her voice against all her sisters which are also renowned Aboriginal artists themselves who also brought their own unique artistic prowess to the world.Kathleen’s works exhibit a professional layering style that combines the dot painting technique with color layering that is distinctive to the finish her works obtain. This great self-taught technique she uses in the most tedious way having rhythmic succession of dots baring different organic color schemes that were repeatedly done in the whole aspect of the painting. Her minimalistic designs exhibit a powerful persona and life due to the unique detail and texture that her painting technique makes to her works. Her experiences as a child of traversing through the Atnangker country terrain became her guide in mapping her ancestors’ path around their homeland that is exhibited in her paintings which she usually does in monochrome.
Art was introduced to her through batik workshops that led to tapping the artist within her. She later proliferated in art through teaching it in the Utopia art school for 20 years. Her participation to the CAAMA’s summer project of 1988-1989, paved the way to claiming her title as an artist. Not long after that her works received many recognitions that includes the prestigious 13th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, Seppelts Contemporary Art Award of the Visual Art Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Visy Board Art Prize of the Barossa Vintage Festival Art Show.
Her custodianship to her Mountain Devil Lizard (Arnkerrthe) dreaming came from her paternal grandmother’s line while her other dreamings as the Dingo (Atnangkerre), the women hunting emu, and bush seeds in her country around Utopia in the Eastern Central desert she obtained from her mother and father. Also worthy of note is the fact that this clan country in the Eastern Desert is important because it serves as a creation site and sacred place to reconnect with dreamings through ceremony and initiation rites. Kathleen expresses her detailed, accurate knowledge, and her respect to her country through the paintings she creates that gives her audiences an insight to an ancient world.
One of the 50 Most Collectable Women Aboriginal Artists of Australia, Kathleen embraces her being an Alyawarre (Eastern Anmatyerre) in her artistic depictions. She received artist residencies in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia and in Adelaide, South Australia. Collections of her works can also be viewed around the world namely in Paris, France at Collection de Musee des Arts d’ Afrique et d’Oceanie; in Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.A. at the Peabody-Essex Anthropology and Ethnology Museum in Harvard University; in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia at the Museum Puri Lukisan; in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia at the National Gallery of Victoria; and in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A at the Levi-Kaplan Collection to name a few.