On Joy Hester’s late portraits of girls

Sun behind her on threadbare floor,
at thirty-seven, draw
girl and dog in ink,
a yearning, younger self
has dabs of nail polish pink,
girl and gold-washed hound,
peaceful on the (h)earth,
‘gainst the ground of brown.

And did dogged drawing of
Girl with Dog,
Girl with Goanna,
Girl with Hat and Far Away and
Girl with a comet tail,
dull the burn of radiotherapy?

Those Girl portraits
hung stark in the winter dark
and shuttered at Heide
from your view
through cigarette smoke and the
hubbub of Hester’s lovers and contemporaries
now streaming into the gallery
from the Field of Reeds.

Sally Denshire

Listen to Sally reading On Joy Hester’s late portraits of girls (1:20).


Sally Denshire PhD is an occasional poet living in Albury, NSW. Recent poetry at riparianalbury.com include The Chooks’ Poet (fourW twenty-seven New Writing 2016); after “Horses” (fourW twenty-eight New Writing 2017), Reading the Moths (fourW twenty-nine New Writing 2018) and High Above Beds of Seagrass (fourW thirty New Writing 2019).

Note: Joy Hester: Remember me celebrates 100 years since the birth of this significant Australian artist. Due to covid-19 restrictions this exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art is temporarily closed to the public at the time of writing. For updates see the Heide Museum website.

© text and audio 2020