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Written By

Hannah Macri

College

College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

14 May 2021

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Entering the international world of art

When JCU PhD candidate, Narelle Delle Baite, began creating new media artworks to explore concepts of beauty, femininity, and perception, she never imagined that her pieces would be featured in multiple exhibitions throughout Europe and Australia.

Narelle’s series titled Glorious is the most recent of her collections to have pieces included in an international exhibit. However, Narelle’s international exposure began when she went on an overseas study tour while studying for a Bachelor of Creative Arts with JCU.

“I went to all these amazing galleries in Germany, New York and London,” Narelle says. “I had the opportunity to exhibit works in Germany as a result of that tour, so it was a wonderful experience.

“The quality of my work increased dramatically from the exposure of visiting so many galleries and museums. It elevated my understanding of the arts within a global environment instead of regional North Queensland.”

In late 2019, Narelle entered one of her artworks into a competition and was given the opportunity to exhibit the work in Barcelona. She was interviewed for a magazine related to the exhibition and found even greater international exposure when the interview was published in July 2020.

That exposure led to Narelle’s most recent opportunity — exhibiting in the Venice International Art Fair 2020, organised by ITSLIQUID Group. Having your artwork exhibited in this contemporary art fair is by submission and approval only — unless you’ve just had an article published about you in an international magazine.

“The ITSLIQUID Group approached me via email,” Narelle says. “They were particularly interested in exhibiting the Glorious series. So, I did submit a proposal, but they had already invited me and accepted my work, so the proposal was really a formality.”

With the art fair to take place at the end of 2020, Narelle is still taking in the unexpected opportunity.

“I’m still processing it, to be honest,” Narelle says. “I mean, this is great, this is Venice! I’m really fortunate that my artworks are resonating with people and that there is a genuine interest in it.”

Photographic artwork by Narelle Delle Baite
Portrait photograph of Narelle Delle Baite

Portraying natural beauty through new media

Narelle’s artwork uses digital technologies and new media techniques to explore the inspiration she draws from her own experiences.

“New media art is quite distinctive in that it uses digital technologies rather than the other modes of more traditional art,” Narelle says. “For me, creating art is done through discovery. It starts in my studio with sketches, and then the photography, and then transforming the image from light and code in a digital camera to putting it into the computer and playing with it through different software.

“The starting point is never anything remotely like the end result. The artwork is transformative as it goes through the process of play and flow.”

As a Creative Media and Arts PhD candidate, Narelle draws inspiration from academic literature as well as her own life experiences. However, much of her work explores ideas about nature, beauty, femininity and the divine.

“We live in a world today where we are overexposed to so much unrealistic imagery in regards to women and beauty,” Narelle says. “It creates comparative judgments about the female and it’s shaping and cultivating the image of women. I want to shift that to focus less on the physical and more on the inner beauty of women — the inherent beauty of the female.”

In her Glorious series, Narelle photographs women and digitally incorporates images of natural elements, such as flowers, to symbolise natural beauty.

“I obscure the face and that’s really important,” Narelle says. “The first question I would like to raise from a spectator is why did I hide the face? What am I hiding? Am I concealing or am I revealing something?

“By obscuring the face, any woman can look at it and visualise themselves as that person of inherent beauty. I photograph women from 18 to 65 with all types of backgrounds. I love that diversity. It’s not curated, it’s whoever volunteers to sit for me.”

The series’ title, Glorious, holds meaning as well.

“The inherent beauty that I’m portraying through the symbolism of the flowers relates to the concept of the divine. Flowers are beautiful in their natural state, and so is the female. It’s a divine beauty.”

JCU PhD Candidate, Narelle Delle Baite

Image collage - pink flower bud in front of a person
Photographic artwork by Narelle Delle Baite as part of Glorious series

An audience of one

Although Narelle has found international success, she says her ambitions lie not in furthering her own acclaim, but rather in making an impact on those who view her work.

“Women account for over 90 per cent of cosmetic surgeries,” Narelle says. “That’s an alarming percentage of women experiencing body dissatisfaction. I would like to shift that and come back to women feeling good about themselves in a way that’s different than what’s trending or promoted by the mass media.”

For Narelle, exhibitions are less about showcasing her art and more about communicating an idea and shifting even just one person’s perspective.

“I have witnessed girls that just stop in their tracks and look at my artwork,” she says. “I can see them processing it and how it takes them a bit to pull themselves away from it.

“Exhibiting in international galleries is great, but it’s not a measure of my success. I don’t need to change the world. But to make a person feel better about themselves, to help them identify their own beauty and worth —that is what I consider to be a measure of my success.”

Want to see more from Narelle delle Baite? Check out her collections.

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Featured researcher

Narelle Delle Baite

PhD Candidate

Narelle Delle Baite is a casual academic at JCU Townsville and an Australian photographic artist. Narelle's research interests lie in the intersection of feminist aesthetics, theories of beauty and photographic practice. Narelle's research centres on the conceptualisation of the inherent and divine beauty of her subjects while considering the boundaries of personal and collective identities shaped by inherited histories.

Narelle is currently completing a PhD in Creative Arts at James Cook University, Australia. Narelle has published in a peer-review journal, spoken globally on her research on feminine aesthetics and photography and exhibited works internationally in Australia, Germany, Spain and England.

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