Wild and Precious Life / by Emily Ellis

Last night Helen and I hung our first exhibition Wild and Precious Life. Guided gently (and brilliantly decisively) by The Corner Store Gallery's owner Madeline Young. There is something rather strange about making a whole load of pictures to put on a wall and then asking everyone you know to “COME! LOOK WHAT WE DID!” It feels very self-absorbed but I can assure you it’s nothing short of terrifying.

I’ve constantly needed to remind myself that It’s ok, I’m still learning. Both Helen and I tend more towards self-criticism than self-adulation (show me a creative person who doesn’t). I’ve been able to see in large scale what things I do well and what things I really need to practice. This has all been hugely beneficial, long may it continue.

Last night we left the gallery really late. Helen is a mother of three and had shot a wedding in Sydney on the weekend as well as attending her day job as a vet. I am an almost mother of three, just seven weeks away in fact (large and wobbly and forbidden from ladders.) The aching, sleep-deprived tiredness had set in and we hadn’t quite finished.

And then, in my car as I was about to turn out of summer street I saw a cat by the side of the road. I was waiting for a couple of cars to pass. They were driving slowly and I was sure they’d see it too and give it plenty of room. No such luck. I hoped like hell it was Helen behind me and pulled over, madly flagging her down.

We jumped out of our cars and crossed the road and both stumbled in the darkness to find a possum taking its last breaths. Helen picked it up in a totally impressive vet surgeon manner and carried it off the road but it had died by the time we reached the footpath.

“Oh, it’s dead” I said. “Sorry.”

I think Helen then apologised to me too. Which would have looked and sounded so funny. Like a scene from a Beckett play.

We left the dead possum and both agreed that it was better it had quickly died and we didn’t need to rush it to Wires (wildlife rescue) or put it down ourselves.

Then we got in our cars and went home to our families.

For the first part of the drive all I could think was - jeez what a bad omen. And then (ok, go with me because very pregnant and did I mention very tired) I couldn’t believe how perfect the moment summed up what Wild and Precious Life is actually about.

The image of two mums who are in so many ways so responsible for the care of things. Overwhelmingly responsible for the lives of the children they’ve brought into this world. Constantly caring and looking after their families and trying on top of all that to live, connect and live and feel and breathe and experience their own lives amidst all that rush. Two mums standing on a dark street seeing if they could extend the wild and precious life of a little possum. That urge is where my pictures come from. I feel like each picture is a little prayer and a little acknowledgement. A little way of touching the calm into the chaos and saying I can manage all this. I am capable. I know what the true value of all of this is. I know it because I can (I will!) see the light and the beauty in the things I care about even when there’s not much light and not much beauty.

I love the gallery we’re exhibiting in because it doesn’t have a pretentious air about it. It’s not mysterious or elitist. Madi want new artists and new audiences and she works really hard to get them.

I’m not sure I’ll sell my prints. I’m not sure I’ll even cover my costs. I am totally blown away by the support we’ve received from our friends and family and the local creative community.

I hope it encourages one person (or many more) to make stuff and put it somewhere special and say “Come! Look what I did!” Like I have been so generously encouraged. Even when I have felt far less than worthy.