New York is a long way from Gympie but artist Cathy Condon had embraced the city that never sleeps as her home and her star was on the rise.
“Cathy was on the precipice of getting gallery representation after doing several shows in Brooklyn,“ said New York art collector Joseph Knight.
“Everything was moving forward so well … and then, as we all know, the world came to a screeching halt and the pandemic hit.“
With her visa dependent on her job Cathy’s world was turned upside down.
“I was working for a designer in Soho and working out of her store,“ Cathy said.
“The Governor closed the whole of New York so everything went into lockdown.
“I flew in on 31 March last year. The staff on that flight told us as we were landing that was their last flight, so it was pretty weird.“
When she remembers her escape from New York it is almost with a shudder.
“Being in New York was traumatic – I was sick and I didn’t get tested and I waited and it was just such a dysfunctional system and bodies piling up and it was just – you wouldn’t believe what it was like, it was like a warzone, really,“ she said.
“I was living over there for a couple of years – I had my dog, I’d taken him over – and then all my stuff and I had to walk out of my apartment and leave it,“she said.
While she knew she had to leave, she admits, she didn’t think it would be for long.
“I thought I’d be going back a month later and that my dog would stay there, and I’d just get back – but I wasn’t able to,“ she said.
“I was pretty depressed about having to come back and it was overwhelming.
“I grew up in Gympie and I came back to my mum’s house … it was incredibly safe compared to what I’d been in.
“But there was such a displacement and I was just reefed out of there.“
The saving grace for her was the community rallying around her.
“The beauty of it is that I’ve discovered such a richness in Gympie since I’ve been back and I’ve been given opportunities and been looked after and that’s meant the world to me,“ she said.
“I felt very looked after too … all around people were dying and all this stuff was just so traumatic – so many people – and mine was a different kind of grief and displacement but I still consider myself lucky,“ she said.
“I’ve gotten work and I’ve been putting some roots down a little bit here.“
And when she says she has work, she doesn’t just mean her role as an art therapist, but with an exhibition at Qube.
“It is new. The freedom that I’ve had in this space, has been like I’ve never had before and I think that’s really rare,“ she said of her new exhibition space on Mary St.
The canvasses that adorn the walls are just a small part of the exhibition, which has every visible wall space also painted in her unique style, embracing, enveloping and surrounding the colourful canvasses.
Crimson and teal and just a hint of antique gold bounce around the room in a mesmerising display which Cathy, quite accurately, describes as an immersive experience.
This unique, creative environment is warm, vibrant and passionate and took the artist a full month to create.
“They’ve (owners of the space John and Sandra from Soma Soma) pretty much said if you get paint on the walls it doesn’t matter and I took that to the nth degree,“Cathy said.
Creating the space presented it’s own unique challenges.
“Normally I work flat over my work on tables and so that was a really interesting process, getting up and down a ladder and then making sure it was fitting in with the rest of what was around it on the wall, but then being able to have it stand on its own too.“
Since it opened at the start of May, there have been two events – an official opening and a special luncheon.
“We did a long lunch – a six course degustation menu for 20 people – and I just wanted that to be a whole sensory experience,“ she said.
The exhibition will be available to view by appointment until Saturday 26 June, when there will be an official closing event to be held at 6pm.
This final viewing will have a special, unique feature.
“Those who want a colourful piece of history will be able to buy a small piece of the original painting on the walls,“ Cathy said.
“They choose their piece, I will sign it and we will cut it out for them.“
She has already had steady success selling several of the canvasses – some to local collectors and some to a New York based collector.
“The remaining canvases will also be for sale,“ Cathy said.
If you would like to view the space, contact Cathy directly by email to make an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org.