A TARGET of school bullies because of her intellectual disability, Jane Ryan barely spoke to anyone outside her New Zealand home for years.
“I was bullied, that’s why I stayed in my room,” she tells the Herald from the Bicton home she shares with sister, Clare Granny.
Discovering a talent for art 10 years ago, the now-60 year old is a different woman to that harassed and withdrawn girl, confidently giving a speech in front of a crowd at UWA’s Lawrence Wilson gallery.
She was one of 13 WA artists with a disability selected to exhibit there in 2013.
This year she stunned family and friends when she delivered a speech at her nephew’s wedding.
“I think recognition of her art has been a big thing,” Granny says.
Moving to WA with her aging parents, a new world opened for Ryan when her sister enrolled her in an art course at DADAA in East Fremantle.
With no previous art experience her talent with a paint brush and needle drew the attention of nationally acclaimed textile artist Nalda Searles, who was recently declared a state living treasure.
“Nalda is one of [Jane’s] mentors,” Granny says.
“[Jane] has an amazing colour sense, and Nalda loved that she could do painting and stitching…they go together.”
With a new zest for life, Ryan has filled the house, and her studio, with a rich mix of paintings, textile art and textile sculptures that reflect growing up in NZ, amidst primitive landscapes and craggy mountains.
Some textiles are created on pieces of fabric from a favourite piece of her now-deceased parents’ clothing.
“My father had them when he was alive, I feel good doing that.”
Ryan is quick to correct her sister, who’d told the Herald sewing is a new talent.
“I sewed my father’s buttons, and my mother’s buttons when they fell off,” she says, proudly.
Stitch + Brush is Ryan’s second solo exhibition, it’s at Freight Gallery, 21 Beach Street, East Fremantle November 1–22.
by JENNY D’ANGER