Stitching together a history of the Sisters

Dawn uses fragments of hand dyed silk and commercial fabrics that are either torn or cut, secured by pins and free machine stitched to explore the history of the St Vincent’s. Art Curator Monique silk says that Dawn’s style is unique.

‘It’s as if Dawn draws with her sewing machine,’ Monique says. ‘She then includes just the right amount of objects, architectural features, nursing uniforms and medical equipment to bring the story of St Vincent’s to life.

Dawn Duncan-Smith 1‘Each one of these magnificently crafted art works highlights the rich narrative history of the Sisters of Charity coming to Australia and the subsequent important work that the nurses have done, particularly in war time.’

Dawn’s artworks were shown as part of a 125th anniversary exhibition last year in the St Vincent’s Art Gallery. After seeing the collection, CEO Angela saw the importance of ensuring the whole collection was together and arranged for St Vincent’s to purchase the entire set of works.

Dawn was inspired by what she saw during her time as an artist in residence at Caritas Christi Hospice in Kew.

‘I was very fortunate, to see life pass so gracefully from my window as patients, family and friends visited their loved one in the gardens.’

The Hospice was built in 1938, and the historical setting echoed the past. Dawn started researching the Sisters of Charity and travelled back in time to Ireland in 1789 to the founders of the Sisters of Charity, Mary Aikenhead.

On her journey Dawn uncovered historical information on other outstanding women such as Mother Mary Berchmans Daly and Ida O’Dwyer, both of whom had been an integral part of St Vincent’s Hospital since its inception.

‘From a curators perspective, I have always hoped that the set would remain in the collection of St Vincent’s,’ Monique says. ‘We are very fortunate to have this series of works now in our collection for future generations to view, and it is befitting that it has happened in our 125th anniversary.’


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